We say this time and time again- some of the best food is to be had at night when all respectable people have gone to bed. They are at little back alleys and street side vendors. Here's our delicious little night-time foodcrawl in Chinatown...
Make sure to wear your fat pants!
If you spot a lost-looking gwai lo with a guidebook in KL at any time of the day, he’s probably looking for Chinatown. And why wouldn’t he? Cheap knock-off goods, great people-watching and some of the best food in town. Most of these stalls have been around for tens of years and are institutions in this little chunk of KL. One hungry night, The Foodsters found ourselves smack dab in the middle of it all and decided to see just how much food we could take.
Air mata kucing
We started at the main archway leading into Petaling Street. Trying our best not to get sidetracked by the tenacious salesmen (you’ll probably get better deals further down the street anyway), we headed to the intersection where Petaling Street meets Jalan Hang Lekir. There, we found the uber-famous air mata kucing stall. The best thirst-quencher for miles; nothing quite beats the refreshing slightly sticky sweetness as it rushes down your throat. Grab a cup for RM1.50, or RM2 without ice.
Taking a left at the aforementioned intersection, we were now on Jalan Hang Lekir. We made a beeline for Shin Kee’s beef noodle stall, tucked into an alley right next to Tang City food court. Steaming bowls of noodles and that amazing mince meat with a serving of springy beef balls on the side? Oh, yeah. Some folks swear by the night stall instead of their daytime operations on Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. We see their point - open air dining right in front of Mr Koon’s cooking station is quite the experience.
Tip: If you’re stuck for drinks, you can either bring over your air mata kucing or take your beef noodle bowl into Tang City and order drinks from there.
Koon Kee has been around these part for yonks, still serving a pretty kick-ass plate of wan tan mee. Drenched in soy sauce and littered with slices of char siu, shitake mushrooms and the obligatory greens, the noodles are as close to a well-balanced meal in Chinatown as you can get. The mushrooms are especially lovely as it’s not as intensely mushroom-y as those served in most other places.
We needed something sweet right about now, and right outside Koon Kee is a nameless little pancake stall. The Chinese-style apam balik and coconut pancakes are absolutely scrumptious - we couldn’t stop nomming on the pancakes! A couple of these every tea time and I would be a very happy fat bunny. Or a very fat happy bunny.
Walking down Jalan Hang Lekir, we spotted two shops side-by-side on the left, Biskut Fung Wong and Syarikat Kiew Brothers. The former sells a whole variety of Chinese pastries, siew pau (and Shanghai siew pau!), different lotus-filled buns, and the cutely named “wife biscuits”. Stuffed with winter melon and almond paste, this not-too-sweet flaky pastry is a great substantial snack. They also have “husband biscuits”, similar in appearance but with black sesame seeds scattered on top. Hmm..
Syarikat Kiew Brothers next door is one of the more popular places to get your bak kwa fix. My friends love their chilli ham and their bacon is so sweet, it’s almost like candy. They’re sold by the weight, so grab a bag (or five) to sustain your bak kwa cravings. Because who doesn’t have bak kwa cravings?
Speaking of bak kwa, as we turned right onto Jalan Sultan, we spied a little cart selling bak kwa pies. Bak kwa pies. Trying not hyperventilate, we grabbed a still-warm sesame-studded pie each and dove right in. Flaky pastry and sweet pork? Bliss. (The name on the cart is Siew Pheng and it’s right in front of another bak kwa shop on the left hand side of the road, you can’t miss it)
“You still have space in your stomach? Well done!” one of my makan companions said to the other. We waddled down the street and found yet another cart, this one with large pots on all available counter space. Run by the Foo family, this place has been here for over 20 years and serve all sorts of soups, from ginger wine chicken to fish head soup to even bak kut teh! If you’re Chinese and your heart doesn’t skip a beat when you see this stall, then there’s something wrong with you and you should order their pepper soup. Absolutely divine, you’ll fall in love immediately. Its intense heat comes from white pepper, and it’s almost milky in texture. You can get it with all sorts of meats - we had ours with some fatty pig tail and gnawed through all the bones. Yum.
For our last stop (yes, finally), we went to our favorite claypot lo shu fun shop. With slivers of pork liver, peeled prawns and the obligatory egg cracked over the top, this lo shu fun is probably the best you can get in this part of town. We stirred it up, making sure to scrape the charred bits off the side and tried not to burn our tongues on the little noodles. We didn’t have the space for it at the moment, but we usually order some yong tau foo from the stall next door, who will deliver it right to your table. Seng Kee also does an equally yummy dish of siew yoke noodles, served with a mountain of crispy roasted meat on top.
Oh Chinatown. You did us proud that night. We just had to remember not to leave any bak kwa stains on the car seats on the way home. Because we were suddenly feeling peckish again. (But of course)