Local strawberries 1/2kg for RM10 (about AU$3.60)
The strawberries are plentiful, plastic trays of fruit huddled around old-fashioned scales in hospital green.
And where there are strawberries, there are strawberry souvenirs. We found strawberry cushions, ear muffs, hats, gloves and socks throughout our travels in the region. Here at the market, strawberry-patterned umbrellas hang above tables filled with tomatoes, cabbages, cauliflower, sweet potato and mangosteen.
Market stall operators
Sweet potato balls 8 pieces for RM2 (about AU$0.72)
The sweet potato balls
were addictive, a small orange cube coated a thick batter that was deep-fried, covered with toffee and sprinkled with crunchy sesame seeds.
Steamed corn RM2.50 (about AU$0.90)
Having completed our morning exercise -- the calorific benefits of strolling should never be underestimated -- we head back into the van and look for breakfast
Uncle Chow Kopitiam
"Let's go to Uncle Chow's!" I yell from the backseat, having just spotted a sign on the side of the road. A professionally printed sign in chocolate brown points the way to the kopitiam, or coffee shop.
There are lots of signs to follow, we discover, a game that sees us peering through windows trying to spot the next road marking to caffeinated sustenance.
Uncle Chow Kopitiam
It's still early when we arrive but Uncle and Aunty Chow are bright and chirpy. The laminated menu offers three set specials as well as heartier fare like nasi lemak
(RM7.90/AU$2.80), mee hoon soup
(RM7.90/AU$2.80), toasted tuna sandwich
(RM7/AU$ chicken congee
(RM6/AU$2.15) and fried kuey teow
Value Meal Set A RM5 (about AU$1.80)
Roti bakar with butter and kaya, two soft boiled eggs and kopi
Set A, ordered by Minh
, is one of the best value meals - two slices of roti bakar,
or toast, served with butter, kaya, two soft boiled eggs and coffee.
Soft boiled eggs
are one of those comfort food dishes that most Malaysians adore. The eggs are not so much soft-boiled as barely set. The egg whites are so runny they are more like a milky soup, with two lustrous orbs of golden egg yolk shimmering just below the surface. It's a strange concept to deal with at first, but once you season the eggs with soy sauce, salt and lots of white pepper, the mixture is perfect for dipping in torn shards of toast - a Malaysian version of "dippy eggs" or boiled eggs and soldiers. Bursting the skin of the egg yolk is always the best part
Roti bakar with butter and kaya RM2 (about AU$0.70)
was a revelation for me on my first visit to Singapore
last year. Unlike the ones I'd sampled there, the toast at Uncle Chow's is thick and fluffy. Personally I find this upsets the optimal butter and kaya to toast ratio
. My ideal version of kaya toast involves super thin slices of crunchy toast, slices of cold butter and lashings of rich pandan-flavoured kaya
The components here create a more moderate affair, the kaya jam more of a caramel flavour than eggy custard. I eat it all regardless.
Kopi-O RM1.80 (about AU$0.65)
A dark brown pool of coffee is heaven to any caffeine addict. Malaysians tend to drink their coffee extra sweet - in a Kopi-O, a pool of condensed milk at the bottom of the cup is mixed into the drink by a quick stir with the spoon. The intense sweetness of condensed milk is an addictive counterbalance to the bitterness of coffee.
Har mee RM7.90 (about AU$2.90)
Forget about cereals or fat-free grapefruit for breakfast. Is there anything better than a hearty bowl of noodles for your first meal of the day?
Billy's har mee is a prawn noodle soup with a rich stock made from prawn heads. Shreds of chicken, strips of tofu and silky tubes of kangkong water spinach intermingle with prawns and noodles in a fragrant seafood soup.
Curry laksa RM7.90 (about AU$2.90)
is not for the faint-hearted, particularly first thing in the morning. Specks of chilli oil dot the surface of the spicy coconut soup. Sprigs of mint rest on top of deep-fried tofu puffs, fish balls and rice noodles. There are plenty of things going on here, although Simon
wishes it were spicier.
Assam laksa RM7.90 (about AU$2.90)
I've saved the best for last - assam laksa. Unlike traditional laksas, assam laksa does not contain any coconut milk or coconut cream. Instead the soup is made using mackerel, tamarind and lemongrass, giving it a distinctive hot and sour flavour.
It's one of my favourite dishes, and I hadn't expected much from this tiny life cafe far from the original home of this dish, Penang.
Rice noodles and assam laksa
The soup is so thick with chunks of mackerel, it's a murky slurry of deliciousness. Fresh mint, raw onion rings and sweet pineapple chunks lift the dish, which carries undertones of lemongrass, chilli, galangal and tamarind.
This is a dish that's spicy and sour, fishy and sweet. It's the best assam laksa we find in all our Malaysia travels, including several assam laksas in Penang.
Only later I discover that Uncle and Aunty Chow are originally from Damansara, Petaling Jaya, just outside of Kuala Lumpur. The couple decided to retire in the Cameron Highlands, setting up the kopitiam coffee shop. Today they feed locals and tourists kopi, kaya and crazy-good assam laksa, and even now that laksa is one of my favourite Malaysia memories.