"Stop a while, grab a bowl of something soupy..."
I am a late riser aspiring to be an early bird. For sleepyheads like me nothing is more gut-wrenching then to crawl out of bed (thinking it's early) and only to see the last fishball go to the person in front of me. A lot of great breakfast places run out before the sun's first yawn. Sometimes I figure the only way to be up early enough is to stay up all night.
Markets too are a whole lot more fun at daybreak. By 10, what's a charming morning gambol becomes rather smelly. Wet markets are always more tolerable in the cool dawn hours. Pudu is one such market. A classic wet market with all sorts of food. The earlier you come, the fresher the products. They open extremely early in the morning, around 3 AM, and at 7 AM most of the action is over. This market is very `local` in flavour, it is predominantly Chinese but you can find Malay and Indian traders here as well. It can get noisy as the street vendors fight for the attention of shoppers by shouting out their bargains. Besides food and clothes, you can find the most unusual items: pet fish, scorpions, frogs and terrapins.
The market is long, intense and most people start loosing their appetites at the frog butcher. I know many of you out there enjoy a kermit or two in your diets but for us who rather watch him on the Muppets, the frog butcher here is the apex of squirminess. Especially when you see him skin those croakers while the poor creature is still gasping it's last breath watched by his buddies awaiting the same fate. It's an amphibian Apocalypto. I'm all for knowing where your food comes from, but this is too early and too real even for me.
But I digress, before you even venture into the depths of the market, right at the front are the eating shops. Take a seat, have a sniff. Fresh noodles await. Everything here is pretty good. You order drinks at the kopitiam in front and just grab whatever you wish for breakfast. There's very good prawn noodles here in a spicy, briny broth and a fragrant lam mee.
"Tender, juicy and full of flavour"
One evening I sent my car for a wash in an empty lot next to the Taman TTDI Jaya Mosque. Just across the street was a shop-lot area, and along the street, I saw various stalls already set up and flocks of people browsing through the delicious morsels on offer. Street food, so to speak.
This mini-bazaar of sorts is present every evening at this place, just opposite the TTDI Jaya Mosque. The mini-bazaar balloons to bigger proportions during Ramadan, but today, late April, there were only a few stalls selling snacks and drinks.
But it was a smoky-sweet aroma that made me cross the street to find an itty-bitty stall that was the source of the wonderful smell. I stopped in front of the stall: it was just a small barbeque grill, with long metal skewers of chicken wings, gizzards and ‘tongkeng’ (bishops nose) hanging inches above the grill, and a large container filled with chicken parts marinating in a mysterious liquid.
The stall had no name, just a sign listing what was one sale, and that was pretty much it; wings, gizzards and tongkeng. A gentleman, who stood diligently preparing the yummy chicken bits for the waiting customers, manned the stall.
I asked for a couple of wings (sorry but I don’t really like gizzards, or chicken butt for that matter) and waited a bit while he prepared them. He nodded curtly and proceeded to pull off two wings from a metal skewer hanging above the grill.
He placed the wings on the wire rack that served as the grill for the chicken to cook through, basting occasionally with the marinade juices. After about 3-5 minutes, he packed them in a generic clear plastic baggie. Now I had to decide if I should wait for my car to finish being washed and go home to enjoy the wings, or to gobble them on the spot. More »