The legendary Imbi Market, a wet market that operated in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, was an icon of the city for over 60 years – popular not only as a social and cultural hub, but also for its extraordinary street food.
While the market is long gone, replaced by shiny skyscrapers and bustling commercial centers, vestiges of its glorious culinary days remain – in the form of the food court at ICC Pudu.
Opened in the 2010s, ICC Pudu was built to provide better, cleaner facilities for the traders of Imbi Market (and also to get them away from that sweet, sweet prime land the old market sat on). Most of the wet market traders, as well as the food stalls, shifted to this new spot, bringing with them six decades of culinary history. Many of these stalls today are still run by second or third generation proprietors, and their clientele also spans generations of families. In recent years, it has also attracted a younger crowd.
Video of the our food trip here!
If you’re averse to dining in humid, stuffy conditions, with sweat pouring down your back as you shout over the din to be heard by your fellow table mates, then this might not be the place for you. If that’s not a problem, then you’ll be well rewarded with the wide variety of cuisine they have on offer, served simple and fuss-free, but with layers of flavour. I recommend coming in a group so you get to try more dishes, as there are at least 20 stalls here, all with their own specialties!
One of the most popular food stalls here is Ah Weng Koh Hainan Coffee, which serves typical Malaysian breakfast kopitiam fare the likes of soft boiled eggs, coffee and milk tea, and toast with butter and kaya. Because the queue was so long, though, we decided to get drinks from another stall. The taste was not impressive, however, so if you have the time to spare, stick to the OG.
Next, I ordered a char kuey teow from this stall, which also specializes in lala (clam) noodles. It doesn’t have a name, so here’s a photo for reference.
The portion was not very large, but enough to satisfy. They were generous with the toppings, with bits of bouncy shrimp and juicy cockles within. The noodles were also cooked over a strong fire, imparting a smoky ‘wok hei‘ taste from the caramelization of sugars and Malliard reactions. While it’s not the best kuey teow I have had, it still scores pretty high on my scale. 8.5/10!
The Hubs went for the Fish hor fun, from the Special Teow Chew Steam Hor Fun stall. The stall specializes in seafood porridge and seafood noodle soups.
What came to the table was an unusual dish, which I had never seen before. Wide, thick strips of hor fun swam in a golden broth, with fish slices, chilli, tomato, and lemons. Apparently, the dish was inspired by the traditional Teochew steamed fish dish, and is an original creation. I definitely recommend this if you’re coming here!
The noodles are slippery smooth and just slides down your throat, while the fish has all traces of unpleasant ‘fishiness’ removed, thanks to the lemon. The lemon and tomato also give the soup, which has pork bones as a base, a tangy, appetizing taste. None of the ingredients overshadowed each other, but just came together in a perfectly balanced way.
For snacks, we went for some popiah and pai tee (top hats) from the QQ Penang Popiah stall. It took a long time to get to our table.
The pai tee and popiah were both decent; the jicama inside was fresh and crispy, with the fried dough pieces wrapped within adding extra crunch. But I wouldn’t say it was worth the more than half an hour we waited for it.
Last but not least, one cannot come to ICC Pudu and not grab some of the famous Kuih Bakul (nian gao – sticky rice cake) snacks from the Imbi Kuih Bakul stall! There’s always a long queue snaking from the front of the store, but they move quickly, as the cooks churn out batch after batch of golden, fried goodness. Some people prefer the three layer nian gao, where the glutinous rice cake is sandwiched between yam and sweet potato, but I like mine plain as you can bite into the sweet, gooey cake whilst also enjoying the fluffy, crisp batter enveloping it on the outside.
There is so much to eat at ICC Pudu that it would take multiple trips to try everything – but that’s also one of its draws, as no two trips will be the same. Food is affordably priced for the area.
Jalan Kijang, Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 6am – 2pm (opening hours of individual stalls vary)