01 May 2012

Kuala Lumpur Tour Day 2 ~ Imbi, Chinatown & An Old Kopitiam

We devour all three main food groups in one day: Malay, Indian and Chinese, but we won't admit to having Western food for dinner.

We take a pre-breakfast walk to burn off some calories. But only 100 metres from our hotel we find this lovely lady with a food stall run from the boot of a taxi. We have to try this. Hence our pre-breakfast walk becomes a pre-breakfast breakfast.

Malay food is usually pre-cooked and served ready-to-go. It is much, much tastier when you can find it fresh, it loses it's 'zing' once it's been sitting around for hours. This stuff is morning fresh, we've hit gold.

A customer recommends we try the chicken rendang, it's absolutely amazing, nice chook with a thick gravy of fresh spices and coconut, there's a real fresh zing to it. In there also is a fried egg and some ikan bilis (peanuts and dried anchovy) and some cucumber and fresh sambal. Oh my god.

We take a walk around the backstreets of Imbi scoping food options, we were either a bit early or a bit late.

We eyed this joint off for breakfast another day but we never made it back.

This kuching takes a break from his important job of road sanitation for a quick pat.

A huge wok of boiling oil on the side of the road, we think it's tofu cooking.

For proper breakfast we head to an Indian joint we spotted the night before.

We had tried another joint earlier but their roti chef had disappeared, Restoran Khalid Curry House to the rescue (insert superhero music here).

Super sweet iced coffee, and the first of many, many ice lime teas.

The roti is light and fluffy, the dunking sauce has an Indian curry flavour to it. Roti canai is a popular lunch or dinner item back home in Australia, but it's extra magical when had for breakfast in the tropical heat, somehow it just works.

In Sydney we can find one or two places that may do roti as good as this, but there's something about being able to find a roti just when you feel like it. In Sydney we have to get a bus into the city and wait in line for an hour at Mamak to get a decent roti. Here roti heaven is 100 metres from our hotel.

Packets of ready nasi lemak, Shawn's favourite.

These little packet nasi lemaks are super cheap, less than a buck, and are generally rice and spicy sauce with a few peanuts and a tiny bit of chicken and egg.

Another roadside Malay food stall run by some smiley folks.

We try some sweeties which are nice but much plainer than they looked.

Those donuts look hardcore.

Sadly we didn't get a chance to try their dishes when it was nice and morning fresh. Malay food generally isn't presented in an appetising way, and it's hard to know what's under all that gravy, and it's hard to find it when it's super fresh.

A good time to get into Malay food, believe it or not, is during Ramadan. On a previous trip we found markets and roadside stalls with amazing, super fresh Malay food in the late afternoons, so folks could take it home for an after dark feast. We aim to visit Malaysia again in Ramadan just for the twilight feasts.

Shawn briefly considers transvestism when he sees these glitty Hello Kitty bags for sale, they would look swell with his thongs (double pluggers, only the best).

We hit the monorail, the best way to get around town.

Chinatown - yay!

Random snackage-stop.

Tops old juicy uncle.

We try to get a table at this uber busy, uber tops old joint, but it's lunch time and it's packed, no room for four muzungus.

One of the stall owners takes us next door where we can still order the same food, but it was confusing and not as much fun. The place is packed with office workers having lunch. If only we could have our work lunches in a joint like this back home.

We order using the point'n'smile'n'pray technique. This place is so busy it's hard to keep out of the way. Look at all those little dishes of pickled green chilli ready to go.

Tops drink lady.

These mild, sweet, pickled chilis appeared with almost every Chinese meal we ate on the trip. Delicious.

BBQ pork on top of two types of noodles, with a little sauce. Yum.

BBQ pork wanton soup, Terminator is very, very happy with the broth in particular.

Chinatown has some great old buildings, but for how long? Some of the buildings around Jalan Sultan are under threat of demolition for railway extensions.

That fatty cat doesn't need any more Fatty Cat.

There's lots of dark and mysterious laneways to explore in Chinatown, we wish we had more time.

A fine excuse for an afternoon beer if we ever had one.

Rainy day blues.

Fashion statement or fascist statement?

Kiddie Love, possibly not the best name for a business...

A lovely kuching, working hard in a stationery shop in Chinatown.

Back in home in Imbi we spot 'kaya balls' - lovely sweet doughy balls with with coconut/pandan goo inside. Freaking delicious.

If you ever want to get on the right side of Miss Economical Bihun, simply fly to KL and get her some kaya balls.

Classy souvenirs... Alison covets the Dragon Ship.

For afternoon tea we pick Toon Kwoon Chye on Jalan Bukit Bintang at random.

This is a wonderful old kopitiam (coffee shop) run but the loveliest of lovely tops old ladies.

Noodle cooking station.

Drink lady making magic.

Still life. Love how worn down the tables are.

We have one of those magic food-nerd moments when we try our first proper Malaysian sock coffee - it's incredible - so smooth we drink it black, leaving the little magic dollop of condensed milk at the bottom as a treat at the end. We can't believe we've been to Malaysia so many times before and never had a sock coffee moment like this.

Roast chicken rice, nice, and probably nicer earlier in the day. The chicken stock flavoured rice is excellent.

Noodle soup with pork, chicken and wontons.

Satay stand on Jalan Alor. We found satay hawkers surprisingly hard to find in KL, we wonder if the logistics of carting around hot coals and uncooked meat are too difficult.

Random display outside somebody's flat in Jalan Alor. They must go to the trouble of blowing up the inflatables on a regular basis.

Juice stall on Jalan Alor.

Food-on-a-stick guy in Jalan Alor. Food-on-a-stick is everywhere all over Asia, but it never seems to taste as good as it looks, with the exception of yakitori in Japan, and a good sate stick.

A street snackage we regret not trying: looks like some kind of fried prawny pancakey fritter thing.

We love the way folks just hang out and eat to relax at night.

We don't photograph dinner as we go to a fancy-ish Western place on Changkat Bukit Bintang with friends of Miss Economical Bihun, which was great but at odds with our street cred. Sometimes it nice to put the camera down too :-)

We love KL.


  1. Can't tell you how much I love your blog. Can you please go on holiday more often? Actually I love your Sydney posts just as much.
    You've got some beautiful photos here. So much interest.
    I had a great time in KL a few years ago. I loved roti canai for breakfast, and banana leaf lunches, where you get vegetarian Indian curries with rice, served on a banana leaf and eaten using your fingers, and all the dishes get replenished as you eat, until you are stuffed! Happy days.

    1. OK, I'll let me boss know I need to have more holidays because our readers demand it! Not sure how she'll take it lol. We would have tried the banana leaf places if time allowed, later we got to try some nasi kandar which just whetted our appetite. Sri Lanka in October, here we come!

  2. Man you are making me homesick for some good hawker fare!!! Just a few more weeks to going back to Singapore! Woohoo. Great post and great photos too!! Nothing beats those packets of cheap and good nasi lemak!! Oh those pickled green chilli is a must...i have a homemade one in my fridge all the time. =)

    1. We were walking home from a show last night wishing we were back in Singapore or Malaysia where we could grab a quick late night hawker feed. You guys are so lucky!

    2. When will you guys be up to round 2 of feeding frenzy? Hahahaha.....yah I guess we tend to take things for granted....places like Geylang has amazing eats in the middle of the night...with a bit of sleazy (actually a lot) thrown into the mix. The streets are divided to odd and even number streets...one is for good food and the other is for brothels!

  3. Guys, just wondering if you speak Malay or chinese? How did you get by ordering food from the stalls? Alot of those places don't have a menu etc

  4. It's mostly point, smile and pray. We do know some Malay food words which helps a bit.

    1. Oh, there's a fair bit of English spoken in KL too :-)

    2. Cool. Heading there in June and Jalan Alor has been recommended as well. Adventure awaits!

    3. Most of the words we know in any other language are all to do with food or beer. You get far with a smile and learning the word for 'delicious' and using it often!

  5. Nasi Lemak packets. What a great idea! Someone should do them in Sydney for when you need a Nasi Lemak on the run.

    1. There is another place in Town Hall that has wrapped nasi lemak in banana leaf. Its called Laksa Express.

  6. They do a cling wrap version at Laksa House in the QVB - http://www.streetfood.com.au/2011/02/laksa-house-malaysian-qvb-sydney.html

  7. wow kaya balls sounds like such a wonderful dessert/snack!

    1. Wonderfully yummy yes - they were consumed on a number of occasions. I think we made detours just to go past and see if they were open.

  8. satay/sate in KL are normally not found in the city instead in suburbs like Kajang area.

  9. Excessive use of "joints" and "tops". Australian or not, sounds retarded.

    1. "Joints" and "tops" are our two favourite words.


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).