There's only one thing I look forward to when I travel. The food. You can understand so much about a culture, a country and its history by simply digging into the local cuisine.
I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia over the weekend, a whirlwind trip as a finalist in the Best Food Blog category for the Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards. After an overnight flight via Melbourne, we landed early on Friday morning and hit the ground running.
Ipoh hor fan RM9.50 (about AU$3), milo ice,
La Manila cafe and assam laksa RM9.50 (about AU$3)
A cab ride from the hotel delivers us to Mid Valley Mall, one of the biggest shopping complexes in Kuala Lumpur, with 430 shops spread across five floors. But first, lunch. We had been lusting over assam laksa and, after a local tip off, head to La Manila on the third floor.
It's a small pristine white cafe with candy pink tissues boxes on every table. We'd had it on good authority that the assam laksa here is a commendable version, and we breathe a sigh of relief as soon as it arrives. Its muddiness is reassuring, pungent with mackerel, generous with chilli and sweetened with pineapple and mint.
A good assam laksa is fiery, punchy and full of substance. Slippery fat noodles soak up the dark fishy soup. It's not a dish for the fainthearted, a mix of sweet, sour and salty that leaves your tongue tingling with chilli.
Milo ice is another Malaysian favourite, a little more watery in composition than most Australians would make it, but somewhat maltier in flavour. The ipoh hor fun is also good, a clear soup filled with a huddle of silky rice noodles topped with shredded chicken, prawns and garlic chives.
Custard tarts and cakes and pastries
Kuala Lumpur is all about shopping, but when you've had enough of clothes and shoes and handbags and more, there's always distraction in the basement food halls. Here you'll find bakeries selling all types of donuts, pastries, soft buns and tarts.
Self-serve croquettes, deep-fried battered squid, fried chicken and sushi at Jusco
In the Jusco department store, the supermarket includes a self-serve food area. I picked up a cheese croquette and a small bag of deep-fried battered squid for about AU$1. It took enormous willpower to resist the bucket of fried chicken (5 pieces for RM9 or AU$2.90) only because it wouldn't have boded well for my one hour Thai massage (RM92 or AU$$29).
Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards 2011
Eat Show & Tell and Lizosaurus, finalists for Most Original Blog Design
The awards were held that evening in our hotel, the Marriott in Putrajaya. Printed panels showcased the finalists for every category.
Citrus and Candy, finalist for Best Photography Blog
Best Food Blog finalists - I can't believe I was the only female!
The awards ceremony had as much fanfare and hoopla as the Oscars, with roaming spotlights and a massive red carpet leading up the stage. We'd been relieved that the boards outside only displayed small profile images but it wasn't until the awards began that our worst fears had been realised - eight foot hanging banners with our profile shots in giant size!
Hello eight-foot tall Citrus and Candy!
Chrissy from Childhood 101 was our first Australian winner, taking out Best Parenting Blog. Woohoo!
Best Food Blog announcement
The winner of Best Food Blog went to Brad from Singaporean site Lady Iron Chef. I didn't win but seeing a larger than life-size photo of myself displayed in front of 500 bloggers is one nightmare I can now cross off my list! Congratulations Brad - you're a worthy winner!
Most Original Blog Design announcement
We had both Australian finalists for this category seated at our table so there was plenty of shrieking when it was announced that fellow food bloggers Eat Show & Tell took out the big prize!
Minh and Squishies on stage
Minh's speech was succinct, heartfelt and deeply moving!
There were more than a few eyebrows raised when the entertainment included an extended pole dancing show, quite a progressive display given that Malaysia is a Muslim country. But the undoubted hit of the night was Lizosaurus's awesome dress which included a custom-made dinosaur tail. Everyone wanted a photo with her!
Lizosaurus' dinosaur tail
There's always room for supper. After briefly flitting through the after party at Zouk nightclub we jumped in a cab for a bite to eat at Jalan Alor.
Rambutan, dragonfruit, durian and mangosteen at Jalan Alor
Wan tan mee RM5.50 (AU$1.75);
sour plum juice and watermelon juice RM3.5 (AU$1.10);
banana leaf grilled stingray RM5 (AU$1.60) per 100g
and oyster omelette RM10 (AU$3.20)
We plonked ourselves onto plastic stools at Cu Cha Restaurant, hoeing into old favourites like wan tan mee, a nest of noodles splashed with sweet soy and served with fatty slices of char siu roast pork and a bowl soup with won tons. Grilled stingray is as common as chicken for Malaysians, the sweet flesh grilled with a paste of spicy chilli sauce on top.
Oyster omelette is more like a crispy pancake at the edges, with fresh oysters buried within the folds of egg in the middle. But it's the rojak I'm most delighted to be reunited with, a crunchy salad of cucumber, pineapple and jicama chunks doused in a sweet and spicy shrimp sauce and sprinkled with crushed peanuts.
Rojak RM6 (AU$1.90)
Giant Christmas tree inside KLCC shopping centre
KLCC Food Court
Smashed chicken from Ayam Penyet RM8.80 (AU$2.80);
Nasi lemak ayam goreng from Nasi Lemak Adik RM8 (AU$2.55)
Saturday was all about tourist sites and more shopping. For lunch we made a quick pit-stop at the Food Court at KLCC, located at the base of the Petronas Towers. I had the smashed chicken followed by one of my favourite desserts: red rubies. These are tinted waterchestnuts dusted in tapioca flour and boiled briefly, a contrast of crunchy and chewy in a bowl of finely shaved ice drizzled with coconut milk.
Penang fried kway teow RM8.90 (AU$2.80); and
Chicken rice from Chicken Rice RM5.80 (AU$1.85)
Red rubies from Just Dessert RM4.20 (AU$1.35)
Lot 10 Heritage Food Village
In a battle to maximise as many meals as possible, I squeezed in a visit to Lot 10 for a mid-afternoon snack. The Heritage Food Village in the basement consists of hand-picked tenants chosen for their specialty dishes and minimum 40-year trading history. The idea behind this is to help preserve the best hawker stalls in Malaysia for future generations.
Claypot chicken from Zhun Kee RM9.90 (AU$3.10) and
Cendol from Oriental Dessert RM3.90 (AU$1.25)
Claypot chicken from Zhun Kee RM9.90 (AU$3.10)
I'd had the claypot chicken from Zhun Kee on my last visit, but really a good version of this dish is so hard to find in Sydney that I can't resist ordering it again. It's the crunchy layer of rice at the bottom that is the most delicious thing about this dish, made by placing the claypot over a naked flame until it's golden and brittle.
Cendol from Oriental Dessert RM3.90 (AU$1.25)
Who wants a drink when you can combine it with dessert. Cendol is a cool mix of shaved ice, pandan noodles and lashings of sweet gula melaka palm sugar syrup.
Grandmama's, The Pavilion
Our final dinner with our Aussie contingent is at Grandmama's at the Pavilion shopping centre. My buttered prawns take about half an hour to arrive, but when it finally does, I make short work of the deep-fried prawns drowned in a buttery curry sauce. A cup of sweet teh tarik tea is the perfect pick-me-up.
Assam laksa RM14.50 (AU$4.60); teh tarik RM6.50 (AU$2);
Sang Har Meen freshwater prawns soaked in prawn roe and egg broth RM32 (AU$10.20);
Buttered prawns RM28 (AU$8.90)
Nicole from Planning with Kids and Alicia from Sea of Ghosts
Breakfast buffet at the Marriott, Putrayaya
Did you expect me to skip the most important meal of the day: breakfast? Of course not. I'm not a morning person at the best of times but the lure of a breakfast buffet is a very good argument for getting out of bed early.
Egg station; deep-fried mantou rolls;
Roti making; Breakfast Day 1: congee, roti, curry, fruit and teh tarik
Breakfast Day 2, round 1: noodles, curry, roti, congee and teh tarik;
Noodle soup station;
Breakfast Day 2, round 2: fresh waffle, pandan and mango pound cake, kaya toast
Pandan pound cakes at the bakery station
Gingerbread houses and giant gingerbread boot
Christmas decorations at the Marriott Putrajaya
And that's how you eat up Kuala Lumpur in two days!
Grab Your Fork travelled to Kuala Lumpur as a finalist for the Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards 2011 courtesy of Nuffnang. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists!
Mid Valley Mall Lingkanga
T-026 3rd floor (Cinema floor)
Syed Putra, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 2283 2122
Lot 10 Hutong
Lot 10 Shopping Centre, Lower Ground Floor
50 Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 2782 3840
Opening hours: Daily 10am-10pm
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
Level 6, Lot 6.01.01
168, Jalan Bukit Bintang
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 2143 9333
Opening hours: Daily 1pm-11pm
IOI Resort City
Sepang Utara, 62502, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 8949 8888
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Malaysia and Thailand food bloggers tour - 2010
Malaysia food tour with Adam Liaw - 2011
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12/20/2011 03:42:00 a.m.