Lau Liang Tong compiles a list of the yummiest hawker food, recommended by the locals in this serious food mecca.
Slurp the noodles
Restoran Ahwa does not fall short of expectations, boasting the “best Hokkien mee in town”, according to local food bloggers. Noodles are cooked traditionally over a charcoal stove, allowing the flavours to infuse and served with a generous helping of prawns and pork. The sambal chilli that accompanies the fragrant, piping hot noodles is a bonus. If you can’t get enough of the dish, takeaways come wrapped in newspapers (plastic lined, of course). Prices start from RM6 (US$2). The shop is located off the Federal Highway, behind Shell petrol station. 66 Jalan 14/48 (along Jalan 222), 46100 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Open daily from 1800 to 0200.
Sip the kopi
Step back in time as you enter the Old China Café. Sounds of Chinese folk music spin in the background, allowing diners to reminisce about the golden days. Food from the Nonya or Straits Chinese communities of Malacca and Penang is served here, like ayam pong teh (chicken and potatoes cooked in preserved soya bean gravy) and sago gula melaka (a Malay dessert made from palm sugar and sago). Must-tries include Malacca kopi (coffee) served in a pot, complete with strainer and ’60s-inspired flower-motif cups. Prices from RM8.90 (US$3). Take the RapidKL train to Pasar Seni station nearby; the café is opposite a car park. 11 Jalan Balai Polis, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Open daily from 1130 to 2230.
Savour the sambal
Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa Kampung Baru serves everybody’s favourite staple food – good old, traditional coconut-flavoured rice garnished with a hard-boiled egg, ground nuts, ikan bilis and cucumber, plus a dollop of to-die-for sambal chilli. It is no wonder patrons keep coming back to Makcik Normi’s eatery over the last 22 years. There’s also a variety of meat and seafood dishes to go with the nasi (rice) like beef rendang, sambal sotong, kerang (cockles) and sambal squid. Dinner for four costs about RM46 (US$14.54) with drinks. 7C Jalan Raja Muda Musa (opposite D Lima convenience store), Kampung Baru, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Open daily from 0600 to 1200 and 1800 to 0600.
Try the beef brisket
Since 1938, Nam Heong Chicken Rice has been dishing out plates of tender chicken meat the locals (and even Wikipedia) would swear by. The secret recipe lies in the freshness of the meat – chickens are slaughtered and cooked within the day. Chicken rice costs RM5 (US$1.60) per plate. Not to be outdone by its rivals, if any at all, Nam Heong is also proud of its beef brisket soup and assam fish among other authentic Malaysian dishes. The original Jalan Sultan outlet (the others are in Sri Hartamas and Mid Valley) is by far the best, according to reviews. Take the RapidKL train to Bandaraya and you will find the vendor opposite the Furama Hotel. 56 Jalan Sultan (next to Petaling Street), 56000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Open daily from 1000 to 1500.
Go for the curry chicken
Unlike nasi lemak traditionally served with fried chicken, Madam Kwan’s version is paired with curry chicken instead. Condiments that go with the dish, from RM14 (US$4.50), include sambal anchovy, dried shrimp floss, egg and achar (spicy pickles). Another signature dish is nasi bojari, or tricolour rice with fried chicken drumstick, beef rendang and assam prawns. Though pricey but good value for money – RM19.80 (US$6) a plate – the dish showcases Madam Kwan’s talent of mixing spices. Diners rave about the prompt service. There are three outlets (Bangsar Baru, Mid Valley Mega Mall and KLCC) and the quality of dishes is consistent. Located in a shophouse opposite Bangsar Village Shopping Centre; the nearest RapidKL station is Bangsar. 65 Jalan Telawi Tiga, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Open daily from 1130 to 2400.
Dip into the gravy
Don’t be deceived by the unkempt look of the South Pacific Seafood Restaurant (really a roadside coffee shop). The seated crowds spill out to the car park nearby at dinnertime, the only time of day it is opened. Chinese food served here – Marmite crabs and sweet and sour crabs with chilli padi are most popular – is as good as that in high-end seafood restaurants. Toast bread is provided, for dipping into the gravy. Prices for the crustaceans start from RM35 (US$11) per kilo. Also not to be missed is batu maung satay or grilled Penang chicken at RM7 (US$2.20) for 10 skewers. The shop opens from 1700 and patrons get 30 percent off seafood during Happy Hours from 1700 to 1900 and from 2300 onwards. The downside is that it is accessible only by car. 7 Jalan 52/16, New Town (behind State Cinema),?46200 Petaling Jaya,?Selangor, Malaysia. Open daily from 1745 to 0300.