PETALING JAYA, July 27— At times, the number of modern cafes and establishments serving fusion eats in the Klang Valley is a little overwhelming.
Almost every other week we hear or read about such new places popping up not only in the city centre or business hubs, but even in the most secluded of suburbs and tranquil neighbourhoods (possibly catering to the niche crowd who have grown weary of travelling all the way to the city centre or super-packed shopping malls for a bite).
Initially, it felt like a shot of new energy in the otherwise placid food scene dominated by chain bubble tea outlets and modernised kopitiams that mirror one another.
However, after the umpteenth boutique/gourmet cafe, the common folks (okay, read: older folks like yours truly) started to crave something more substantial, authentic and well, more reasonably-priced.
There have been too many cafes serving half-hearted blends of “gourmet coffee” priced at RM10 and beyond.
And so, here comes the theme of today’s article: keeping it real.
Although KL/PJ do not own any hawker dish like Penang’s assam laksa and char kuey teow, or Ipoh’s bean sprouts chicken and white coffee or even Sarawak’s laksa and mee kolok, there is an interesting mixed bag of authentic street eats usually patronised by the older generation (or at least, the middle-aged group).
Occasionally, these stalls are situated within business centres, but more often than not, the better ones are hidden somewhere in the most secluded of precincts, tamans or older neighbourhoods.
Take the Section 17 wet market square in the heart of Petaling Jaya’s older neighbourhood. There are quite a few noteworthy stalls here parked in several coffee shops (or what we commonly refer to as “kopitiam”) at the corner lots of the shops.
One of the better char kuey teow (fried flat rice noodles with eggs, shrimps, bean sprouts, chives and cockles) that I have tasted in the Klang Valley is at this stall named Robert’s Char Kuey Teow at Say Huat Restaurant. His rendition of the famous
Penang dish includes slices of sweetish Chinese sausages with a faint hint of cooking wine (lap cheong), plump prawns, juicy cockles and wok hei (a smoky aroma imparted by a well-heated wok and skillful control of the fire).
The same restaurant also houses this stall that serves wonderful one-plate meals that are perfect for individuals such as Sambal Petai Rice, Fried Beef Noodles and more.
During the day, the choices are more abundant. Lucky Restaurant right across the vast car park in the middle of the square has this fantastic chee cheong fun stall named Tuck Kee; operated by a mother and son duo.
Not many stalls in the Klang Valley can match up to Ipoh’s incredibly smooth and tasty version of the steamed rice noodles routinely served with soy sauce, shallot oil, chili and sweet sauce, fried shallots, sesame seeds and pickled green chillies.
But Tuck Kee’s version almost has it all; plus the addition of a really flavourful curry and sides of boiled fu chuk aka bean curd sheets, stuffed tofu, and even yam cake topped with fragrant fried shallots and dried shrimps.
It’s no wonder you routinely see a line of people patiently waiting for the young man to dish out plate after plate of chee cheong fun; sometimes in a scarily volatile mood but he’s a fine chap in all honesty. I usually request for more sesame seeds and it’s granted without much query.
If you’re not fond of heavy breakfasts, the chili and sweet sauce combination work just as well.
If you are here for lunch, then don’t miss Hong Seng Restaurant’s incredible roasted chicken rice.
Yes, not very often do I call a plate of chicken rice “incredible” yet this stall managed to impress with their version of roasted chicken (with crispy skin) and BBQ pork for lunch. You can expect a perpetual line even during breakfast, and it gets much worse during the peak lunch hour. You need to line up, order and carry your own food sometimes so be prepared to bring a lunch partner to grab a seat while you do the queueing up.
During the later hours of the night, the square comes alive with more than a dozen hawker stalls in front of Say Huat Restaurant; serving a variety of street fare including halal food like Roti Canai and Mee Goreng.
And the above finds are only but the tip of the iceberg. To fully appreciate the amazing array of street eats in Section 17, one needs to look beyond the square to the aptly-named Happy Mansion flats, roadside stalls like the famous cendol and rojak truck and more eateries along the same row as Kanna Curry House.
James Tan loves good food and blogs at Motormouth From Ipoh (www.j2kfm.com)