Waffles with blueberry compote, toffeed hazelnuts and cream
I'm not a morning person at the best of times, but it's amazing how the promise of fresh waffles can get you out of bed with a smile.
Our one-week trip to Malaysia was fast drawing to an end, and we farewelled Melaka with a final breakfast at The Majestic. It's a little bit fancy, with cereal, yoghurt and freshly sliced fruits trundled over to your table on a trolley. Hot menu options included cooked English breakfasts and congee but I was more than happy with my tower of waffles, crispy on the edges and served with fresh cream, blueberry compote and nuggets of hazelnuts dipped in toffee.
Lot 10 Hutong
Mobile drinks trolley and ice shaving machine for ice kacang at Lot 10 Hutong
By the time we make the two hour journey back to Kuala Lumpur, it's almost time for lunch. Of course it is. Travelling abroad is rarely about sightseeing for me, but waiting impatiently for digestion to kick in so I can commence my next meal.
We'd been talking about our final lunch in KL for a couple of days, keen to maximise our last precious moments in the capital. Lot 10 Hutong was the perfect spot - a custom-designed food court with tenants specifically hand-picked for their history and signature dishes.
There are 26 tenants at Lot 10 Hutong, each with a minimum 40-year history that spans two or three generations. The concept is to create a "heritage village" that preserves some of the best hawker stalls in Malaysia.
Claypot chicken rice at Zhun Kee, Lot 10
Lot 10 Hutong offers the authenticity of traditional hawker food within the clean surrounds of a modern food court, tucked into the basement of the Lot 10 department store. It feels like a strange mix at first, but it works, especially when you ignore the neon and focus on the cooking activity right before you eyes, the air punctuated with the clash and clang of metal spatulas on fiery hot woks.
Claypot chicken rice RM9.90 (AU$3.10)
Admittedly I'd wandered into Lot 10 a few days earlier. While everyone else was wandering the grand and gleaming Pavillion Shopping Centre during our free time, I'd snuck in an extra meal when noone was around. I was glad I did.
The claypot chicken rice at Zhun Kee is cooked the old-fashioned way, in individual pots over gas flames. The pots are rotated and tended carefully, allowed to simmer until all the water has absorbed and the bottom of the rice starts to crispen.
It's amazing. For about $3 you get a huge portion of fluffy rice smothered in the fatty goodness of sweet lup cheong sausage, chunks of salty chicken on the bone and smithereens of dried salted fish. A generous sprinkling of shallots provides some relief, as does a bowl of clear chicken consomme. The best part is the layer of crunchy rice on the bottom of the claypot.
Roving yum cha trolley
Roving drinks and yum cha trolleys adds a sense of fun to the food court. You may have managed to resist the call of dumplings when you decided on lunch, but when a bamboo steamer of har gow prawn dumplings approaches you from only three feet away, it may be a different story altogether.
Pork and chicken satay from Le Porc Dor 6 for RM10.50 (AU$3.30)
We descend as a group of ten, pulling together tables and chairs while our host Adam Liaw is entrusted with collecting a multi-course banquet from all the hawker stalls he fancies. There's a feast of pork and chicken satay, served with chunks of cucumber and red onion and cubes of compressed rice.
I'd put in a special request for rojak, one of my favourite Malaysian snacks. It's a happy jumble of pineapple, cucumber, carrot and jicama dressed in a sweet and salty shrimp sauce. There's a hint of chilli against the refreshment of fruit, and a pleasing crunch from the shards of crackers and crushed peanuts.
Clockwise from top left: Hainan chicken from Chong Hwa Hainan Chicken Rice RM8 (AU$2.50);
We swarm over a plate of Hainan chicken, soft and succulent -- served with a mound of fragrant rice cooked in chicken stock -- and then move onto to the compact parcel of nasi lemak, coconut rice wrapped up with a fiery paste of sambal and crunchy fried anchovies.
The Penang assam laksa is a first encounter for many, and although there's a fair amount of mackerel in the dish, I'm left wanting a dark, thicker and fishier soup. This Penang favourite is best when the soup is opaque, a dark brown slurry of mackerel stock that is lifted by pineapple, mint and tongue-tingling amounts of chilli.
We also find room for a curry laksa, rich with spices and coconut milk.
Hokkien mee from Kim Lian Kee RM8.90 (AU$2.80)
One of the highlight dishes is the hokkien mee, obtained from the noisiest stall in the food court. The sparks are flying with each toss of the wok, lending a brilliantly charred aroma and flavour to the noodles. This intensity of heat is essential to give what Chinese call wok hei, or wok breath to a dish.
The hokkien mee are coated in a sticky sauce that is smoky, fragrant and caramelised. In amongst the tangle of sticky noodles are shreds of cabbage, sliced pork and crunchy nubbins of pork crackling.
Now that's what I call wok hei or "wok breath"
Cool refreshment on Jalan Alor
In our final moments of free time, Jen and I head to Jalan Alor, the famous outdoor hawker market. There's not much action during the day -- many of the stalls don't open until dinner time -- but I'd spent some time exploring the area a few days earlier. There seems to be a consensus that the quality of food is better than in Lot 10 than along the tourist-targetting Jalan Alor, but I still love the haphazard chaos of dining on the street, sitting on rickety plastic chairs on the road with the air cloaked in thick clouds of charcoal smoke.
Stalls along Jalan Alor beneath residential housing and hotel accommodation
Wrapping up parcels of nasi lemak
Jalan Alor You Tiao
There are a number of stalls that do a brisk business during the day. Jalan Alor You Tiao is one of them, this family-run business working industriously all day to make deep-fried snacks.
Selling you tiao, ham chim peng, ngau lay so, cup chung and mah kiok
I'd stood at this stall for at least five minutes, fascinated by the quiet diligence of this three-person team. The old man rolled out the dough with a floured rolling pin, before sliding them into a giant wok filled with shimmering oil. An old oil can had been cut to create a makeshift container for the fried bread.
There are five deep-fried variations on offer: you tiao, ham chim peng, ngau lay so, cup chung and mah kiok, each sold for only 80RM (AU$0.25). We savour one of their specialties, the mah kiok butterfly bun which is soft, fluffy and sweet with a crisp golden shell.
Can you visit Malaysia without eating durian? I think not.
We pull up a chair at the outdoor stall, watching our chosen durian being expertly split open. It's gingerly placed on our table, along with a large packet of serviettes. We're engulfed in the sweet pungent smell of durian and we couldn't be happier.
The durian season is only just beginning but the fruit we're feasting on is ripe and creamy. The intensity of durian is something that takes some getting used to, but one you're hooked, you can never get enough. The buttery flesh reminds me of buttery avocado mixed with the sweetness of lychee, the acidity of pineapple, and the creaminess of custard apple. They don't call this the king of fruits for nothing.
Pao Xiang Bah Kut Teh
Inside Pao Xiang
We're on an early evening flight but we meet up with everyone again and manage to sneak in one quick final snack before we have to leave for the airport. It's one last hurrah for bak kut teh, as we descend on Pao Xiang, a specialist in bak kut teh, inside the Pavillion shopping centre.
Clockwise from top left: Pai kwut pork ribs, neng kut soft ribs, tofu puffs,
you char kway fried bread sticks, pork belly and fried lettuce
It's surprising how bak kut teh makes you feel like you're doing your body good as you eat it. The herbal tea pork bone soup is deeply aromatic, its stock commonly made from star anise, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, Chinese angelica and cassia bark. We feast on chunks of soft simmered pork, crunch on deep fried bread sticks and slurp down spoonfuls of fragrant broth.
Kayu Nasi Kandar
Kayu Nasi Kandar
Okay so I lied. In between the durian and the bak kut teh there was one more snack - the one metre roti tisu, but like I do with every meal, I always save the best for last.
Stretching the roti tisu dough
I'd spied the Kayu Nasi Kandar sign as we'd exited Lot 10 and immediately recognised it as the chain that specialises in my favourite 1m roti tisu. It's only a small restaurant, located on the street with outdoor seating, but I'm ecstatic to discover the 1m roti tisu is indeed available.
Super-size roti tisu
We're warned that there'll be a ten minute wait while the grill heats up, but Jen and I settle in with our iced drinks and watch all the action. I'm sure the staff must have been bemused by our incessant camera-snapping but we're enthralled by the open kitchen theatre.
The roti tisu dough is flipped and tossed until paper thin before it is laid down on the grilll. It's then smeared with margarine, sprinkled with sugar and drizzled with condensed milk in an orgy of fats and calories. I can't watch, but then I can't look away.
Hello condensed milk
Lifting up the cooked roti tisu
Folding the roti tisu into a tower
Ta da! One-metre roti tisu (Kayu special) RM6.30 (AU$1.95)
Cold ginger drink RM2.30 (AU$0.70)
One metre of roti tisu needs three plates to rest on, and we admire it for a moment before going in with our hands. It's a lot more oilier than the last one I'd had, literally dripping with rivers of melted margarine, but the sheer thinness of the roti tisu cannot be denied. It shatters upon impact, delicate and crisp and ridiculously addictive.
We manage to eat less than half of it, our fingers covered in sugar and condensed milk, but our hearts are happy and our smiles are broad. Such magnificent pleasure in the simplest of foods. Oh Malaysia - I must come see you again soon.
Grab Your Fork visited Malaysia as a guest of Malaysia Kitchen Australia and Tourism Malaysia.
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7/11/2011 02:15:00 a.m.