I love markets. The vibe, the food, everything. The atmosphere is always electric and there’s some exciting local cuisines to try. The only bad thing is my stomach has its limits and I can only eat so much!
Similar to my Singapore holiday late last year, here are some of the market eats I sampled while in Kuala Lumpur recently on my mid-winter getaway.
Kuala Lumpur’s Petaling Street is well known with both locals and tourists visiting Malaysia’s capital city. Known as a flea market, or Chinatown, this is the place to be in the later hours of the day and into the night.
Stalls are set up throughout the street, stands filled with good quality fake handbags, wallets, shoes, belts and DVDs. There’s people sitting on plastic stools getting tattooed (real and fake), and pushy vendors trying to entice you into looking at what they have on offer.
The food is definitely the highlight for me in Chinatown though. But where to start? There’s too many choices really – too many incredible scents drawing me in. As lovers of satay, Jeremy and I naturally found ourselves drawn to a stall where they have a smorgasbord of meats to choose to have grilled just for you.
We scan the selections of skewers available to choose from – a choice hard to make because the variety is fantastic! We pick a selection to share (they only cost a couple RM each!) and then take a seat behind the stand for them to be cooked for us.
As we sit down, one of the stand workers approaches us straight away to ask if we’re interested in any drinks. While a beer is tempting, we decide to share a fresh starfruit juice instead. A fruit that only tastes good in Asia – no matter how many times I try it in Perth, it’s never up to scratch.
We pick two squid skewers, a pepper duck, pork and satay chicken (yes I was craving pork so bad since it’s not a common meat in Malaysia due to the large number of muslims). By far, the best is the pork (fourth from the left) which is fatty and melts in your mouth. It’s so flavoursome and sweet.
The squid is fantastic – lightly battered and covered in chilli powder. The squid is tender and just slightly chewy, it’s really really good.
My least favourite is the duck which is a massive shame for me because I am a huge duck feaster. Unfortunately this one is too peppery for my liking and a little tough. It’s a rare day when I can say I like chicken better, but this satay chicken was really tender and full of satay goodness.
Nearby you can access bowls of my all time favourite Congee which comes laden with youtiao (fried bread), spring onions and boiled peanuts. It’s different to the Hong Kong style of congee which has a more fragrant depth of flavour from the stock used when softening the rice but this still does the job. It’s hearty and satisfying and offers a real sense of comfort to me.
My final snack for our market browsing in Chinatown is a Pandan Crepe which is a cross between a savoury and sweet dish. It’s a crisp crepe like outer with a glutinous pandan filling doused with crushed peanuts.
It tastes damn good; soft and sticky on the inside and crunchy on the outside. I feel like it sticks to my throat as I swallow each bite but the aftertaste is sugary and delicious. It’s a great way to finish up our eating experience here in these markets.
Imbi Road Markets
Underneath Fahrenheit 88 shopping centre is an old, renowned market known as Imbi Road. It’s underground and boasts stalls that offer Chinese style cooking that have been there (on Imbi Road) since as far back as 1927!
From Imbi Road’s Original Pork Noodle stand (originated in 1935 I believe), Jeremy and I ordered our breakfast one morning, both opting for dried pork noodles. They come out freshly made, steaming hot and covered in a light soy sauce with slices of pork sausage plus a side bowl of soup with pork balls and spring onions.
The noodles are slightly salty and cooked just right. The pork ball soup warm and pooling with little streams of oil in some sections. I love how many spring onions are floating around in the soup which adds some sweetness as you chomp down on them.
Across from this pork noodle stand is another we tried on a different occasion but didn’t manage to grab any snaps of. It sells BBQ pork and soy chicken on noodles, prepared in a dark sweet sauce. It’s another little cheap eatery that sells some decent product as these kinds of market stalls often do. They don’t sell many dishes, but the ones they do have been perfected over time.
Garden Malls is a large shopping complex which has two different centres next door to one another. Underneath the high end centre (where you’ll find Louis Vuitton etc), is a strip of food stalls that have a variety of different cuisines to choose from.
Jeremy and I found ourselves down there after a shopping day and in my haste to visit Delectable by Su for some cronuts (more on these in my Desserts post on Kuala Lumpur). But we decided to stop by a curry puff stand for some take away snacks to eat back at our hotel.
The curry puffs in Malaysia are on another level. Pastry that’s flaky and crumbly; a filling that’s chicken, potato, egg and a great combination of spices and flavours. A perfect snack for when you get that three-thirty itis between lunch and dinner.
KL Downtown Markets
There’s a night market in Kuala Lumpur known as KL Downtown which Jeremy and I stumbled across one evening when walking out and about. It’s a normal street by day that gets transformed at night with lanterns strewn from each sidewalk criss crossing and creating a festive atmosphere.
There’s open air restaurant after open air restaurant on this strip. Vendors stand out the front on the street side calling you in with offers of discounts and cheap Chinese/Malaysian fare to eat. We make our way down the street before going back about halfway to a place that is jam packed with locals and tourists. The food looks good and I can see they have a vast selection of seafood. Tick.
We start off with a large Tiger beer each which comes out frosty cold and much cheaper than any beer I’ve ever purchased before. We then go through the menu and pick out some key items that we’re keen to share for our dinner on this humid night.
First to come out is the Char Kway Teow which is laden with sprouts, oysters, eggs and spring onions. It’s smokey and delicious; chocked full of flavour and made just the right way. It goes down a treat and as one of my all time favourite noodle dishes, I sink into eating it as fast as I can from sheer greed and enjoyment.
The Nyonya Prawns come out on a sizzling plate and have a nice spicy, citrusy flavour. I love digging in with my hands and peeling the shell off and licking my fingers clean. It’s the small serving size for this but just enough for us to experience some traditional Malacca based flavours which are known as ‘Nyonya’ style cooking.
When in Malaysia, satay is a must. And so naturally we found ourselves ordering a serving of Chicken Satay. It comes out as a plate of char grilled skewers and a bowl of peanuty sauce that is thick and delicious.
I love proper satay where you can taste the smoke that’s been fanned into the meat, especially when its been cooked in a way that retains tenderness. Each bite is coated in satay sauce and is juicy and flavoursome.
I give Jeremy reign to pick our final dish, which comes down to deciding between Chilli Crab or Buttermilk Crab. He picks the latter, which is a completely different sort of dish than either of us have had before.