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What to Eat at ICC Pudu Food Court, Kuala Lumpur

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

ICC Pudu

Jalan Kijang, Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 6am – 2pm (opening hours of individual stalls vary)

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Okonomi @ Tokyo Street, Pavilion KL

Another day, another food adventure – this time at Pavilion KL’s Tokyo Street!

Much like J’s Gate Dining at Lot 10 Shopping Centre next door, Tokyo Street houses a slew of Japanese eateries, serving everything from shabu-shabu (hotpot) and sushi, to authentic matcha desserts. We had our sights set on Okonomi, a casual spot specializing in – what else – okonomiyaki.

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For the uninitiated, okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake, comprising shredded cabbage mixed with batter and items such as pork, shrimp, beef, or even cheese. It is flattened and cooked on a teppan (hotplate) before topping with okonomiyaki sauce, dried seaweed flakes, and katsuoboshi (bonito flakes).

The word is a portmanteau of okonomi (meaning ‘as you like’, or kinda like the ‘chef’s special’) and yaki (fried) – a fitting name, seeing as how the dish is basically a mix of different ingredients. Different regions in Japan have their own unique versions, but the one that is most common is Osaka-style, where it was popularised. Trivia: okonomiyaki is also nicknamed “Osaka soul food” !

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The shop is cozy, with wooden furniture and a warm, earthen colour scheme. A large section of the restaurant is dominated by the kitchen, which features a teppan (grill). The cooking area is separated from the dining area by glass.

The appeal of such a setup is that guests will be able to sit at the counter and experience the food with all the senses. It almost feels like a performance, as resident chef Takeshi Wada whips up dishes right before your eyes; you smell the aroma of food cooking on the grill, and hear the satisfying sizzle of more ingredients being added to the hotplate.

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For best value, order the set meals, which come with rice, side dishes, miso soup, and dessert. While okonomiyaki is the main attraction, there’s a good selection of other grilled items as well, such as yakiniku (beef), pork belly, and salmon.

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If you’re feeling fancy, opt for premium orders such as the wagyu sirloin and Iberico pork chop.

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Complimentary edamame as appetiser
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Our first order of the day was one of their signatures: Spicy yakisoba (RM20). This was da bomb. The wheat flour noodles were cooked perfectly and had a chewy, al dente texture, each strand coated in a sweet and savoury sauce.

We couldn’t place the unique flavour while we were dining, but I googled it later and apparently the ‘base’ is a Worchestershire sauce, which explains the rich, full-bodied flavour. In terms of freshness, you can’t get any fresher than noodles curling around on the plate like they were wriggling lol, because the heat was making the strands contract. To top it off, shavings of katsuoboshi and dried seaweed flakes.

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Unfortunately, after the star performance of the yakisoba, the okonomiyaki (shrimp and pork – they ran out of squid, so they gave us extra shrimp) felt a little underwhelming. It was still tasty, but the sauces and toppings were very similar in taste to the noodles, but did not pair as well. I also felt that the shredded cabbage had a bitter aftertaste, which sort of ruined the enjoyment for me.

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Last but not least came the fried omelette with pork belly (RM10). The omelette was fluffy and stuffed with tender slices of pork and onions.

Here’s an extremely thoughtful gesture: I ordered one dish, but was surprised to see that two portions came. At first I thought that the server mistakenly keyed in two orders, but it turns out Chef Wada made them so that the Hubs and I would each get an individual portion. Which I think is awesome; that he pays mind to these details. It reminds me of omotenashi, or the Japanese concept of hospitality which centres around going above and beyond to make sure guests are well taken care of.

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That being said, there’s one thing to remember when dining at Okonomi: be patient. During our visit, the shop was at full capacity (about 20 pax). Since Chef Wada was the only one preparing the food, and they are all made to order, our dishes took a long time to get to our table. But hey, good things are worth the wait!

If you want a taste of authentic Osaka-style okonomiyaki, Okonomi checks all the boxes. I do think they make good okonomiyaki – it’s just that I’m not a big fan of the dish itself; it has nothing to do with the chef’s skills.

As for the Hubs and I, we’ve already made plans to return for the phenomenal yakisoba.

OKONOMI BY TOKYO DON

Lot 6 . 24 . 1C, Level 6, Tokyo Street, Pavilion KL, 168, Jln Bukit Bintang, Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 11AM – 9PM (daily)

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Goodbye, Ramly. I Have a New Favourite Burger Tepi Jalan

Pre-pandemic, roadside burger stalls (aka burger tepi jalan) were ubiquitous around Malaysia, and were beloved by people from all walks of life. More than just places to grab cheap and tasty burgers, they also doubled as port lepak (hangout spots), especially after a night out or after catching a midnight film.

Because these stalls were not able to operate during the pandemic (due to movement restrictions and curfews on business operating hours), I haven’t had a burger tepi jalan for over two years now. Thankfully, with things slowly returning to how they were, I’ve been seeing more roadside burger stalls around the neighbourhood again. With the Hubs now finally in Malaysia, we had an excuse to go late night burger hunting at Taman Tasik Prima, Puchong. There were three stalls in front of The Wharf – a no name stall, a Ramly stall, and an Otai stall.

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Everyone knows Ramly; it’s popularity as a street burger brand is legendary, so much so that it has become a proprietary eponym (any burger tepi jalan stall is a Ramly, even if it’s a different brand. lol) But the Otai stall further down the street seemed to be enjoying brisque business, and I was curious as I had never heard of it before (my bad – apparently it has been around since the late 2000s).

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The menu had something called ‘Speso’, which apparently features thicker patties. The Hubs and I got two Ayam Speso (chicken) with egg (RM7.50). It’s much pricier than the regular burgers, but worth it, as we would soon come to know.

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I’ve missed the feeling of waiting for my burgers by the roadside – the sights and smells of the meat sizzling on the grill, the warm atmosphere, banter with the Abang burger, seeing Malaysians from all walks of life tapauing their food.

If you’re a foreigner visiting Malaysia, most locals will probably tell you to try Nasi Lemak. That’s fine and dandy, but don’t forget to give burger tepi jalan a go too. We’ve really made what is essentially an American staple into our own by giving it a unique twist – where else can you find burgers cooked on a hotplate with butter/margarine, wrapped in omelettes that are freshly cracked on the grill, then seasoned with Worchestershire sauce/Maggi seasoning/pepper and finally slathered with mayo and chilli/tomato sauce?

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Otai has its own range of sauces too.
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Tucking into our takeaway burgers at home, we were privy to a warm and greasy but oh-so-comforting mess. The patty was extremely thick – I would say about 3/4 of an inch – but cooked thoroughly. The meat was well seasoned and tender, but springy, with plenty of bite. The omelette had a smoky taste from the hotplate, and we could taste the sweet-savoury flavour of the seasonings. Sauces were generous but did not overwhelm, but brought all of the elements together. In comparison with the Ramly, which I often find quite dry sometimes, I much prefer the Otai ! Can’t believe it took me this long to discover this.

So yeah. Will be on the look out for Otai > Ramly after this. The problem with some burger stalls, however, is they open when they like – I went back on two Saturdays to this stall and on both ocassions they were closed. But I was craving for it so much I drove all the way to the stall at Bandar Puchong Jaya instead, lol.

Which do you prefer, the Otai or the Ramly? What other Malaysian burger tepi jalan brands do you enjoy?

PS: If you liked this post, please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto!

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Korean Cheese Corn Dogs @ Kaiju Crunch, Lotus Extra Bukit Puchong

The Korean Wave, which started in the 2000s, has only grown stronger over the last two decades – thanks to cultural exports such as BTS and dramas like Crash Landing on You and more recently, Squid Game. Korean food has also become increasingly popular, with Korean fried chicken joints and BBQ restaurants opening up every other week.

One recent trend is the cheese corn dog, a hot street food item in South Korea. What makes it different from the American corn dog is the batter (the Korean version uses rice flour or yeasted dough rather than cornmeal), and although they both feature hot dog centres, Korean corn dogs typically include cheese and other ingredients such as fish cakes or rice cakes.

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I get my K-corn dog fix from Kaiju Crunch, which opened not too long ago at Lotus Bukit Puchong. The name can be a bit of a misnomer, since Kaiju is a Japanese term for the giant monster genre (the brand mascot is also a Godzilla-looking monster), but I’d like to think it’s all in good fun. You can choose to have your corn dogs in the outlet, but seating is rather limited.

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Took this pic some time ago, so the pandemic was still quite serious then – so I thought it was a nice gesture of them to have this ‘food bank’ for the needy.

KaijuCrunch offers eight flavours. Some of them have the same filling, but with different coatings. Their signatures are the Kaiju Sausage(RM8.70), which is the basic hotdog with batter, and the Original MozaSausage(RM9.80), which consists of hotdog + mozarella cheese with batter.

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You can request for different sauces to go with your corn dog, including cheese, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup or chilli sauce.

I mean, what can I say? Solid corndog. You get melty, stretchy Mozzarella cheese and hot dog on the inside, and a nice crispy batter on the outside. Best eaten hot, but if you must take away, you can pop it into the microwave and voila!

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Another one I tried was the Ramyeon MozaSausage (RM10.90). The filling’s the same, but the fried noodle coating adds an extra layer of crunch.

Other items you can order include the Cornflake MozaSausage and Korean Spicy MozaSausage. If you like sweeter stuff, opt for the Honey Almond Cornflakes, or Mozacocoreo.

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KaijuCrunch offers a small selection of drinks as well. I like their Choco Crumble Milk. It’s pretty sweet because of the honeycomb candy, but I like it that way. Else, go for drinks like the Strawberry Fizzy with Popping Boba, Lychee Fizzy or Korean Melon Milk for a more refreshing taste.

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Gotta get that cheese stretch!

KaijuCrunch has another outlet in Batu Caves.

KAIJU CRUNCH

Lot G28. No. 1, 1, Jalan BP 7, Bandar Bukit Puchong 2, 47120 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 10AM – 9.30PM

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Ginger Wine Noodles: Imbi Pasar Mee Halia @ ICC Pudu, Kuala Lumpur

Here in Malaysia, wet markets are more than just places to get fresh ingredients and household essentials – they’re social hubs where people gather to shop or meet friends and neighbours (well, pre-pandemic, at least). This is why you will often find kopitiams and food courts close to or located within a wet market facility.

Pasar Baru Bukit Bintang (also known as Imbi Market) was one of these places. The market was an icon of Kuala Lumpur for over 60 years, and the food stalls there were equally legendary: you could get noodles, classic kaya butter toast with coffee, Nyonya Kuih and more.

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A couple of years ago, the market had to be relocated to make way for a building project, so they moved to new premises at ICC Pudu. The new building is much cleaner, has a better layout than Imbi and has proper facilities. While it lacks the chaotic charm of the old market, the hawkers are still the same – so you can still get that authentic taste.

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One of the stalls here sells a rather unique dish: mee halia, or ginger wine noodles. You don’t often find this dish sold commercially, as it is usually served at home to new mothers, especially during confinement (for my non-Malaysian readers, confinement is a traditional practice following childbirth whereby the mother stays at home to rest, and have to adhere to things like avoiding water, eating certain types of food to boost recovery, etc.). In traditional Chinese medicine, ginger is thought to have beneficial properties and it is often recommended to expel ‘wind’ from the body, improve digestion and reduce bloating. 

The owner-chef is 70-year-old Wong Mei Lan, who has been selling the noodles for over four decades. “There was a young mother in my neighbourhood who had just given birth. She asked if I could make her a dish, as she didn’t have money to eat the proper foods for nourishment,” she explains. “More women started coming to me after that, and then even men because they said it was tasty. That’s how I started my business,” she shares.

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Each bowl costs RM9 and comes with a large portion of rice noodles, swimming in a cloudy broth topped with egg that has been fried with minced ginger, as well as tender pork slices and fresh prawns. The broth is definitely the star – after simmering for hours, the ginger, rice wine and pork bone create a deep and complex flavour, and a warmth blossoms in your belly with each sip. Comforting is the best word I can think of to describe the taste. The proportion of the wine has to be done right in order to achieve this effect, and although Madam Wong doesn’t make it in-house, she gets it from old folks from Perak who mix it at home. Basically everything that you’re eating is homemade, rather than commercially produced.

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One of the things I love about Malaysian hawkers is that they often last generations: you can find century-old establishments that are now into their fourth or fifth generation in the business. And even though age has caught up to Madam Wong and she can’t move as fast as she used to, she’s glad that there’s someone to take up the mantle: her youngest son Lee Chee Wai. Now, just as Madam Wong used to cook for her customers and their kids, so will Chee Wai cook for a new generation – and keep his mother’s cooking traditions alive.

IMBI PASAR MEE HALIA 

G20, ICC Pudu, Jalan 1/77C, Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur 

Opening hours: 6AM – 2PM 

Note: I interviewed Madam Wong and Chee Wai for the October issue of Fireflyz, the inflight magazine for Firefly Airlines. This article features a few tweaks and some additional info I wasn’t able to fit in to the story.

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Trying Out Kuala Lumpur’s OG Hokkien Mee: Kim Lian Kee @ Petaling Street / Chinatown KL

Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown has a storied history. Like many Malaysian cities with a rich tin mining heritage, it started off as a pioneer town, with a large Chinese migrant population. Although Malaya was then under British rule, the colonists often appointed overseers from within the respective communities – and in KL, a “Kapitan Cina” administered over the Chinese.

One of these Kapitans, Yap Ah Loy, is attributed to the founding of KL’s Chinatown. After devastating fires, floods and civil war between the Chinese (from the Hakka and Cantonese clans) for control of the tin mining trade, many of the miners and coolies were keen on skipping town. Yap  persuaded them to remain in KL and ply another trade: growing rice and crops. He opened a tapioca mill in Petaling Street, which allowed trade to recover. In Cantonese, Petaling Street is called ‘Chee Cheong Kai’ (starch factory street), a tribute to its beginnings.

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Over the years, Chinatown’s flavour changed (I wrote about this in a previous post, which you can check out here). It became less of a hub for Chinese culture and more of a cheap market for counterfeit goods, managed by foreign workers from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan and India. This loss of authenticity is the reason why I have not returned to Chinatown for many years – until recently. Times are hard, and the pandemic means that many foreign workers, whether legal or illegal, have been sent home. The street is much quieter now, and most of the stalls are manned by local Chinese again.

Thankfully, one thing that has remained unchanged through the years is food – and Petaling Street is home to many well-established, decades-old institutions, such as a 40-year-old muachi stall, a 2nd generation roast duck kiosk, wantan mee, and of course, Kim Lian Kee. 

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Widely touted as the ‘birthplace’ of Hokkien Mee in Kuala Lumpur, Kim Lian Kee was founded by a Fujianese migrant, Wong Kim Lian in 1927. That makes it close to a 100 years old! The brand has since expanded all over Malaysia, with proper restaurants in malls and commercial areas. At Petaling Street, the ‘original’ hawker stall, which has outdoor seating, sits just across the road from a slightly more upscale-looking resto with air-conditioning. 

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The style of cooking and noodles may have Hokkien roots, but Hokkien Mee was created by the Southeast Asian Chinese diaspora – and as such, you will not find it in China. Three places are known for their Hokkien Mee, and they are all slightly different: Penang’s version features thick noodles in a spicy broth made from prawn shells, prawn heads, prawn and pork ribs, served with pork slices, hard boiled eggs, kangkung, bean sprouts, fried shallots, sambal and lard. Singapore’s Hokkien Mee is stir-fried, lighter in colour and comes in a fragrant sauce made from stewing prawn heads, meat, clams and dried fish.

KL’s version, which is what Kim Lian Kee serves, is known as Hokkien char by Penangite Hokkiens, to differentiate it from the soupy one. It is stir-fried in a dark soy sauce together with ingredients such as pork, squid, fish cake, cabbage and lard. A good Hokkien Mee should be cooked over a charcoal fire, and the intense heat (wok hei) helps to seal in all of the flavours.

I had high hopes for KLK’s Hokkien Mee. Unfortunately, while it was decent, I would not say it is the BEST that I’ve ever tasted.  The noodles were nice and had bite, but they also had a strong bitter taste, likely from kan sui (lye, used in making yellow noodles). The yuet kong hor (moonlight kueyteow – raw egg on stir fried kuey teow noodles) was also just… okay. A tad disappointed, as I was expecting more from a place touting itself as the ‘birthplace’ of Hokkien Noodles. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

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Aside from noodles, Kim Lian Kee has an extensive menu offering dai chow dishes like fried rice, fish and meat items, vegetables, tofu, etc. We got a fried rice with shrimp. Again, not bad but nothing wow either. The rice was a little hard. Uncle Roger would have a couple of things to say,

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The best item that we ordered (the bro agrees) was the fried chicken wings. They came in a set of three pieces, freshly fried and still piping hot. The chicken was marinated well and had great flavour, the insides were juicy, and the skin was crispy.

Our meal along with drinks came up to RM68, Considering that we were in a tourist area, I think it is still a fairly reasonable price.

Video below:

KIM LIAN KEE (PETALING STREET) 

92, Jalan Hang Lekir, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur.

Opening hours: 11AM – 11PM (closed Wednesdays)

*The original hawker stall is at No.42, across the road, and is only open at night from 5PM. 

**If you’re looking for awesome Hokkien Mee, I have two other suggestions. One is the Kim Lian Kee branch at Aeon Cheras Selatan, although I haven’t been back in 5 years so the quality may be different now), the other is Aik Yuen Hokkien Mee in Setapak, behind the Tawakal Hospital. The latter is literally a shack and looks dodgy af, but you know those are the kind of places that serve the best food lol.

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Taiwanese Fried Chicken and Street Snacks @ Monga, Damansara Uptown

Before the boba tea craze, there was the Taiwanese fried chicken craze.

I remember a time when Taiwanese fried chicken shops were popping up everywhere around Malaysia – Hot Star, Shihlin, Fried Chicken Master, J & G… but like many ‘trendy’ foods, of these, only a handful remain. Among them is Monga, a late entrant into the market which seems to be holding its own. There’s an outlet in Damansara Uptown which is pretty close to my workplace, so I’ve been dropping by for snacks every now and then during lunch break.

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The name Monga is apparently based on a place name in Taiwan. They also have another branch in SS15, Subang Jaya.

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One thing I like about the shop is that it’s impeccably clean. They are open for dine-in, but since these are snack foods, it isn’t much of a hassle to get your food to go.

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What does Monga offer? 

Well, their signature is the Taiwanese-style fried chicken fillet, featuring a boneless chicken thigh (Rm14.90). The price is on the steeper side, but the fillet seems huge. Aside from the Original, you also have the Seaweed and Chilli, and juicy Popcorn Chicken.

I actually have yet to try their signature because on both of my previous visits, I wasn’t looking for something heavy – but perhaps I’ll drop by for lunch proper one day!

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The first time around I got Fried King Oyster Mushrooms (RM9.90). The portion was generous, and the mushrooms were lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, with a crispy batter enveloping thick yet soft mushrooms on the inside. I liked the texture as it had a meatiness and bite to it, and it still retained a lot of moisture even after deep frying. Highly recommended if you like mushrooms!

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On my second visit, I got Fried Chicken skin (RM7.90) – an order I regretted lol. It’s not that it wasn’t good – I just felt really greasy and icky afterwards. If you’ve read my previous post about losing weight, I’ve been on a streak lately – I guess old habits die hard, and I’ve been stressed with work. I will try not to fall into these unhealthy eating traps again… or at least try not to do it so often.

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With every purchase of a snack, you get to top up the meal with a drink for RM3.90. And ofc when you have Taiwanese snacks, you gotta have that Taiwanese boba !  The tea itself was quite tasteless and there was too much ice, so the sweetness only came from the pearls, which tasted decent.

MONGA (DAMANSARA UPTOWN) 

66, Jalan SS 21/39, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Open daily : 11AM – 9PM

Available on GrabFood. 

 

Support Local Businesses ! Mee Jawa @ Restoran Wai Wai, Meranti Jaya Puchong

Hey guys!

I hope everyone is keeping safe and healthy. A little update here on the quarantine life in Malaysia: it’s day 27 of the Movement Control Order, which means that it has almost been a month since all but essential businesses were told to close, and everyone instructed to stay in their own homes. Enforcement has gotten tighter because there are still people going out to jog, going out to see girlfriends, etc.

While it’s too early to say since new cases are still in the triple digits, our recovery rate is apparently, pretty high – and the mortality has remained low, despite the high numbers of infected. So kudos to the Health Ministry and our front liners for putting their lives on the line for the sake of the nation. Everyone else, do your part by staying at home.

One of the biggest sectors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is, of course, the small, homegrown businesses like coffeeshop and hawker stalls, that rely on a daily wage. Malaysians take great pride in our tasty and relatively cheap street food (you can insult us about anything else, but definitely not our food), so it was difficult to have that taken away so abruptly. Cooking at home is, of course, more economical and healthier, but one does miss the taste of Nasi Lemak from the auntie that peddles it from the corner stall by the road, or the fresh-out-of-the-wok pisang goreng as a tea time snack in the office… the list is endless.

As for me, one of the first things that I’m planning to do once the MCO has lifted is pay a visit to my favourite Mee Jawa stall at Taman Meranti Jaya in Puchong. I’ve been eating here for several years now, and I actually like the food so much that I did an interview with the lady boss for a story in the travel magazine that I work for. **Unfortunately, the issue had to be postponed, as flights are currently grounded.

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The stall is run by Madam Ong and her husband, who both hail from Teluk Intan in Perak (you know, the place famous for the Leaning Tower?). While the sign says ‘Mee Rebus’, her dish is really more similar to Mee Jawa, a traditional Indonesian-Javanese noodle dish which features a sweet and savoury broth served with slices of egg, beansprouts, tofu slices and crunchy fried condiments. Both dishes are often confused due to the similarities in ingredients, although Mee Rebus tends to use fermented soybean and shrimp as the base of its broth, while Mee Jawa uses tomato and sweet potato.

Madam Ong, who has been cooking for more than 30 years, says that she learned the recipe from her mother. “In Teluk Intan, we call it ‘Indian noodles’ in the Cantonese dialect because it was commonly sold by Indian hawkers,” says Ong, who first cut her teeth in the business helping her mother, who was also a hawker. “I’m not sure if my mother learned it from an Indian hawker, but the recipe I use now was handed down to me when I was young,” she says.

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Madam Ong ran her own noodle business in Teluk Intan for more than 20 years, but hung up her apron several years ago to come to Kuala Lumpur and take care of her grandchildren. But there was ‘no way to pass the time after sending the children off to school’, so she decided to come out of retirement and start selling noodles again, this time in Puchong. She roped in her husband, who was working in construction and had no cooking experience, to help out. Initial days were difficult, as Mee Jawa is not as popular here as some other dishes like chicken rice, or curry noodles. Madam Ong shares that she actually had to donate the leftover food to charity homes. But the couple persevered, and eventually built a loyal fanbase (myself included!)

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What I like about the dish? The secret lies in the gravy.

Some places use fillers like flour to make the broth, so that they don’t have to use as many ingredients –  but the result is watery and unpleasant broth. Here, every spoonful of broth is packed with the richness of sweet potato, potato and tomato, and it tastes wholesome and natural. The sweetness is subtle, rather than overwhelming as is usually the case if you add sugar. While Madam Ong doesn’t make the noodles in-house, they are quite decent and have an al-dente, springy quality, with minimal smell of kansui (lye water, which is used to make yellow noodles and when prepared poorly, can be quite overwhelming). Another great thing about the dish is its wonderful combination of textures – there’s the crunchiness from the lightly salted fried flour snacks, which remain crispy even after they’ve been swimming in the broth for awhile, paired with the softness of tofu slices, the bounce of the egg and the springiness of the al dente noodles. All of this for just RM6! 

While you’re here, don’t forget to order a few pieces (or 10) of fried shrimp cakes, aka keropok udang. These are fried by Ong’s husband, and for someone who had no knowledge of cooking up until a few years ago, he has really mastered the art of frying. The keropok is crunchy and crispy but not oily, with airy, fluffy insides. The seasoning is done just right as well.

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Ong’s Mee Jawa/Rebus stall is open for breakfast and lunch only, and she usually closes by 1.45PM. I’m not sure if she’s still open during the MCO, but I’m definitely going after this lockdown is lifted.

Which hawker stall / local cafe/restaurant are you supporting after the MCO?

MEE REBUS TELUK INTAN 

Inside Restoran Wai Wai, 149-G, Block J, Tanming Boulevard, Jalan Meranti Jaya 3/1, Taman Meranti Jaya, Puchong.

Opening hours: 7AM – 1.45PM (closed Tuesdays)