A Walk Down Memory Lane @ ChinatownMay 16, 2012 | 4,009 views
A maddening pace; the bustling scene at Petaling Street’s (in)famous Madras Lane - Imagine a short distance away you’ll be witnessing the gory scenes of squawking chickens slaughtered on the spot and butchers having a whale of a time dissecting parts, and here we were oblivious to the chaotic surroundings; picking on favourite pieces of Yong Tau Foo, and slurping on plates of Chee Cheong Fun.
Dear fellow Malaysians …. here I am blogging live all the way from down under ….. Singapore, not Australia. A bit lethargic from the eating and paying attention in class; attending a workshop for 4 days and good to know that this one adheres strictly to the 8 hours per day maximum rule, and NO homework in the evening! Jump for joy?!
And Orchard Road is within walking distance; this shopping haven that most would be tipping over their toes and falling head over heels at the mere mention of retail therapy. Although for this Motormouth who has been warped from the quaint, renegade town of Ipoh to KL for a good 1.5 years, the sight of towering (menacing) cold, lifeless towers and mega malls spanning floors after floors of temptations (evil … temptations) holds lesser of a charm.
Still, allow me to pen down a few jarring thoughts playing over my head for the last few weeks; and this evergreen story of Petaling Street …..
Clockwise from top left : Chinese sweet peanuts pancakes (ban chang kueh/apom balik), the gone-entrepreneur Air Mata Kuching, Kim Soya Bean that has seemingly decades of legacy and served a few VIP’s along his journey, and sweet round, chewy little balls of sweet potato given the deep-frying treatment.
I have probably written a dozen stories of street food in KL, and a piece or two on Petaling Street. The most emotionally-driven one was the recent …. Yook Woo Hin and the imminent move whereby Jalan Sultan was about to be literally ….. demolished to pave the way for development. Or what was seemingly it in spite of the uproar. But the issue has subsided, and traders have been assured of prolonged happiness. Ever after.
Until the next MEGA project comes after the GE.
The most glaring difference between Malaysia and Singapore? These.
It will probably be in a tourist’s best interest to scout Petaling Street and its vicinity for cheap buys (usually after the sun has gone down) and fake goods, though don’t be surprised to find hungry locals devouring pieces after pieces of fish smothered in spicy gravy and wrapped in banana leaf before being grilled, pots of chicken rice, or the after hours of booze-ing on a Saturday night and tucking into gloriously greasy and glistening claypout lou shu fun.
You see, I daresay you have not experienced the true legacy of KL street food until you have covered at least 30% of the stalls around this part of Malaysia aptly named … Chinatown.
Kim Soya Bean : A trader still selling the same soya bean curd (tau fu fah to you and me), and soya milk drink to the sweet-toothed locals. And occasionally, curious passer-bys. This was the first time for me though, as I usually passed this off for the Longan Drink.
I thought of going into details, of drawing maps and pointing out routes to take, alleys to avoid, rundown of stall by stall on what they’re good at, or where you should avoid like the plague. Or at least, save the space in your tummy for the others.
But then again, what’s life without some measures of mystery and joy of discovery? I stumbled upon most of these stalls by stroke of luck.
I did not have access to blogs back then, nor did I prepare for a food hunt in the manner that I am casually irritating most of my peers now.
Yes, the air may choke you. The smoke may blur your vision. And the scorching sun may torch your fair and smooth skin. But where’s the curious spirit you knew you had in you back when you’re a kid? That the first thing you thought about was not sunscreen or umbrella, or air-conditioners but galloping in glee to buy a pack of Mamee?
Constantly stuffing the chillies, bitter gourd and brinjals with the fish paste; Yong Tau Foo has never been ONLY about beancurd.
And this journey took us to the small alleys that some may find hideous. Obnoxious back lanes being fertile grounds for all strays, pests and germs. Yet, you’ll bear witness to happy faces relishing their bowls of curry laksa, pairing off the multiple pieces of Yong Tau Foo with a plate of Madras Lane’s signature Chee Cheong Fun (steamed rice rolls served with a variety of sauces, pickled green chillies and a dash of sesame seeds) and finishing off with a glass of herbal tea. Or coffee/tea.
At times, it’s the willing spirit and adventurous soul that will over-rule logic. Food is the antithesis of logic anyway. For me, at least.
An inviting collage of Madras Lane (and Petaling Street) classics; the Chee Cheong Fun in a very light dressing of soy sauce and shallot oil, with a dash of sesame seeds, complemented by pieces of YTF dunked into a savoury (a little MSG-laden) soup, and the scarily oily curry laksa. The Tau Fu Fah came from Kim Soya Bean though.
I will not go into depths with the hawker fares here. No, not because of the relentless preaching of discovery, adventures, etc. But my fingers are numb from the crazy cold air-conditioning blasting over this direction.
The street food here deserves a 3 out of 5, at best. Don’t get me wrong, the experience and legacy was all the more reasons for a visit. But the curry laksa was in fact, quite disastrous; yellow noodles strong with lye water taste swimming in a broth that’s half oil, half curry. The CCF was good, being one of the better ones yet came cold (was not steamed on the spot nor re-steamed before serving) and lacklustre. The Yong Tau Foo were okay, but definitely paled in comparison to O&S‘s, Ampang‘s, Jalan Peel‘s, and of course, Puchong‘s.
Just the perfect setting for a stroll on a Saturday morning.
The classic Lok Ann Hotel; an establishment that has to be praised for the sheer tenacity of enduring the evil lure of commercialization and challenges
And why should you come to Lok Ann if you’re not planning for an authentic backpacking experience? The sponge rusks, for a start.
Simple, basic idea of creating an indulging snack from bread, butter and vegetable oil etc, dried to a crisp without any measure of moisture within, grab a container and let these bring back good old memories of your childhood to you.
Unless you grew up on Haagen-Dazs and Chatime, then I cannot help you.
And yup, that’s a wrap. Took me double the time to write this piece because I’m practically frozen in place.
Singapore’s fine so far, with many new restaurants opening up along the stretch of Orchard Road, and the perimeters. It has been a year to be exact, since the last visit. Will do another post if time permits tomorrow, but next week will be a goner too IF everything falls into place.
And you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be darn stretched and strained by end of May ……
Madras Lane – Chee Cheong Fun, Curry Laksa, Yong Tau Foo (all curry laksa and chee cheong fun stalls are in the same row, opposite of the Yong Tau Foo stall)
@ Pusat Penjaja Tun HS Lee
Kim Soya Bean & Tau Fu Fah
- Diagonally opposite of Hong Leong Bank on Jalan Petaling junction
Petaling Street Air Mata Kucing (Chilled Longan Drink)
- Junction of Jalan Petaling & Jalan Hang Lekir
On Jalan Hang Lekir, you can find Koon Kee Wantan Mee & Hon Kee Porridge (next to each other), and opposite of these will be the Sweet Potato Balls Stall & Simply Curry Puffs Stall (next to each other)
Chinatown Sponge Rusks @ Washington Cake House, Lok Ann Hotel
113, Jalan Petaling, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
>> More on Petaling Street HERE