Food Paradise and More in Kuala Lumpur
21 June 2015
Just north of the Equator lies the federal capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Once here, you'll realise that the humidity can reach really high levels! Especially after the sporadic thunderstorm. Setting foot into the Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur where we stayed was akin to entering the fabled Shangri-La. Plush, over-sized armchairs and melodic tunes from the Grand Piano in the Lobby Lounge really does wonders to calm the soul. And did I mention the over-hanging chandeliers? Simply elegant! We were cajoled into getting some glasses bubbly that was on promotion. Needless to say, we couldn't resist.
But there's was a whole city waiting for us to explore.
As we didn't plan much, we took comfort in the fact that good food was around every corner in this city. We headed to Jalan Alor, which was a street lined side-by-side by food stalls. Tables were set up right beside the road, and diners enjoy their orders sitting on plastic chairs and collapsible tables. Lanterns hang overhead. Cars whiz by beside. A very authentic local experience! Of all the things we ordered, what stood out was the "Hokkien-Style" noodles. It was soft, flat noodles that was slowly simmered in dark savoury sauce and topped with greens and chunks of meat. Fragrant! We also ordered barbecued chicken wings that were grilled over charcoal that gives a lift to the flavor. Squeeze a bit of calamansi (a sour citrus fruit) juice over it or dip it in the tangy chili sauce - it's your choice. But the deliciousness is guaranteed. Go there only at night though, because it's only then that the hive of activity comes to life.
The last time we were in Kuala Lumpur was more than an decade ago. So much has changed. So many glass and steel skyscrapers have sprouted up on what I remembered to to be plain fields that stretches as far as the eye can see. But if there is one thing that is still the same, its the buzz and energy of this bustling metropolis. International brands sport the facades of glitzy shopping malls, but I much prefer shopping at the 120-year old Central Market, where the locals do. Prices are not only cheaper, but you get to experience different things. Syrupy preserved fruits in a variety of colours tantalize the taste buds. Batik-print artwork inspired by the early Nyonya (Peranakan) settlers of the past jostle for our attention. Bargaining is generally accepted here, so don't be afraid to do that! My skills weren't up to par and I didn't manage to save much Malaysian Ringgit doing this, but it's without any doubt loads of fun!
One thing about Kuala Lumpur is that food is not just around every corner, it's available at ALL hours of the day. In the many shops the locals called "Mamak" stalls. Every tourist has to try this. If you can't fall asleep at night, just ask the locals to point you to the nearest one. Mamak stalls are aplenty in this country, and they serve comfort food. Packs of instant noodles are open and simply cooked with ketchup and gravy, then tossed with an egg. Simple, unpretentious and delicious! I washed my plate down with a "Teh Tarik" - which essentially is milk tea that is poured between two different canisters at a height, resulting in a foamy head that enhances the flavour. The act of transferring it between cups also helps cool the beverage! Ingenious.
You might have already realized by now the only thing I bring when I visit KL is an appetite. In this city that loves it's food, I always feel that I'm in paradise. The multi-culture aspects of its society is reflected in its variety of food, and this combination is simply beautiful. It's a place I will definitely want to go back to.