One of the greatest perks of food writing is that I can justify certain types of extreme eating behaviour in the name of “business”. This weekend I had a five hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur which I could breakdown as 30 minutes to clear Malaysian customs, 28 minutes on the train to Sentral Station (RM70, return), two minutes to Chinatown (RM1), an hour of finding and assessing streetfood vendors, an hour of eating, return journey, dash to my plane before I they start referring to me as “Mr Lees” over the loudspeaker.
I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown once before, about 15 years ago, and am now not sure if I remember eating there or if I’ve supplanted all of my Malaysian food memories from KL with Robyn and Dave’s photographs from EatingAsia. What had remained unchanged over the last decade and a half was that Chinatown’s central road Jalan Petaling is still filled with the type of souvenirs that can be classed as Southeast Asian Generic Tourist Crap: faux-sneakers; pirated CDs; t-shirts for pan-Asian beer brands; fishermen’s pants; tschotchkes made from either coconut shell, wire or discarded beer cans. I believe that I may have bought a pair of parachute pants there in the early-90s and that these same pants are still on sale. I would still wear these pants if MC Hammer had not betrayed his more secular audience by recording “Pray“.
More heartening than both the tourist trap and Hammer’s continued career is that the streets and alleys around Jelan Petaling are filled with great streetfood that can be found by someone not at all familiar with KL.
Sweet Chinese sausage, chicken and rice: it takes some clever cooking over an open flame to both cook the chicken to the perfect consistency as well as delicately charring the rice so that it’s both burnt and delicious. The gelatinous result was topped with spring onions and filled with fresh ginger and a little soy, and a world away from the following ten hours of inflight entertainment and plane food.