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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Klang Lek Bak Kut Teh and Batu Caves, Malaysia

The best part about travelling with food bloggers? The non-stop agenda for food.

After picking up our hire van from Mid Valley Megamall (a mere 430 shops across five-and-a-half floors), we christened the vehicle with a trek to Klang.

It's a little over 30km south west from Mid Valley to Klang, but distance never factors in the traffic jams that are synonymous with Kuala Lumpur. Regardless of the hour, you will inevitably encounter a traffic snarl. The slow-moving traffic does give you a chance to sightsee: mosques and markets, Hindu temples and highrises, even if it is through the car window.

Markets in Klang

We're heading to Klang for one reason: the local specialty of bak kut teh or pork rib tea.

Klang Lek Bak Kut Teh

It takes us a few attempts to find Klang Lek Bak Kut Teh, a large restaurant that suddenly appears in the middle of suburbia. Bare tiled floors, chipped formica tables and faded plastic chairs welcome us, only a few tables of late lunching locals remain.

Tables and chairs

The fan above our heads is turned on as soon as we seated. It offers little relief in the sticky humidity, but we relish the slow movement of air as we feel our thighs slowly adhere themselves to the seat.

Kettle on the gas burner

There's a small furnace sitting next to me. It's our own table's kettle on the boil, the licking flames fueled by a rather ominous looking gas cylinder below.

Rinsing the tea cups

The drinking of tea is an essential component to bak kut teh, the tea said to provide cleansing properties against the fatty richness of the pork rib soup. The tea making process is a ceremony in itself, one that involves rinsing the tea cups, washing the tea leaves and only allowing diners to drink the second pour.

Ti Kuan Yin tea

In Klang, the tea of choice is Ti Kuan Yin or Iron Goddess of Mercy tea. It's a refined Chinese oolong tea that is light and floral.

Bak kut teh RM30 (about $AU10.90)

Bak kut teh is usually eaten for breakfast, a clear broth made from pork bones and a heady mix of Chinese herbs and spices. The resultant stock is redolent with garlic, soy, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and ginger, the sweetness of pork at its core.

Bak kut teh with intestines RM30 (about $AU10.90)

We try two types of bak kut teh, each served in a clay pot. The standard version boasts chunks of fatty pork that fall apart in the mouth, the other filled with tight scrolls of bouncy but delicious pork intestines.

You tiao or yau char gwai deep fried bread sticks

Plain white rice is the perfect canvas for appreciating the fragrant soup. We alternate mouthfuls of rice with soft chewy hunks of deep fried bread and the barely wilted crispness of stir-fried lettuce leaves.

Stir-fried lettuce with deep fried shallots

Klang Bak Kut Teh


It feels a little odd eating hot soup when its 34C, but Minh swears by it.

Bak Kut Teh stock

After we've finished our meals, we get a chance to inspect the bak kut teh stock, a cauldron that is filled with pork bones and chicken feet and bubbling enticingly like a witch's brew.

Streetside fritter stall

Whilst everyone else clambers back into the van after lunch, Minh's attention is caught by a streetside stall, set up in the middle of a suburban nature strip like it's the most natural place in the world. She has barely uttered my name before I'm by her side, keenly exploring the possibility of dessert.

Sweet potato fritters RM0.50 each (about $AU0.18 each)

A husband and wife work side by side, quickly and quietly battering segments of sweet potato before plunging them into an enormous wok of hot oil.

Deep-frying banana fritters

They work silently, the husband automatically tending to the deep-fryer whilst the wife patiently talks with Billy, whom we've called over to help translate prices and what's on offer.

Banana fritters RM0.50 each (about $AU0.18 each)

We return to the van with bags of fritters and only a few coins missing from our wallets. I love that food here is cooked so fresh and so cheaply.

The banana fritter is searing hot, fresh from the deepfryer, its sweet yellow flesh almost pulpy, encased in a golden batter that is light and not overly greasy.

Yam, new year cake and sweet potato fritter RM0.80 (about AU$0.29)

But I'm delirious with joy over the surprise fritter sandwich combination, layers of yam and sweet potato surrounding a thin disc of new year cake, a brown sugar glutinous rice cake that has evolved into a gooey, tacky and molten centre of stretchy starchy bliss.

Batu Caves and the 272 steps

From Klang, we head north east past KL and up to Batu Caves. The limestone caves here are said to be 400 million years old, and over time, the site has become a significant Hindu shrine.

The colossal statue at the entrance is the first thing you notice. Standing at 42.7m high, the statue of Lord Murugan, a Hindu deity, is the world's tallest status of Murugan. Over 300 litres of gold paint was used to paint the concrete and steel statue.

Tea room

Our exploration of the cave is delayed by a monsoonal downpour that sees the heavens open. Lightning, vicious winds and relentless rain create a miniature flash flood as we seek shelter in the visitor's tea room.

Fresh coconut juice

We occupy ourselves with fresh coconut juice and ice creams whilst we wait for the rain to settle. When it does, the area is flooded, and we have no choice but to remove our shoes and wade out into waters that are 20cm deep.

I will not lie. Climbing 272 steps is hard work. With one hand holding onto my shoes as I make the ascent barefoot, I find the concrete steps are slippery from the rain, and the steps themselves are steep.

It's the most exercise we do on our entire trip.

Inside Batu Caves

The main cave boasts a ceiling that is an impressive 100m high. We find shrines and stalactites in the cool damp caves that drip slowly with puddled rain.

Hindu shrine

You will also find tourist shops, and tacky souvenirs and a man offering photos of you posing with a snake.

A happy couple posing with a snake

A not-so-happy couple posing with a snake

Macaque monkey

Macaque monkeys also roam the area although visitors are warned they are often territorial and may bite.

Macaque monkey feeding on a cracker from a tourist

Macaque monkey

Cleaning up after the miniature flood

Ringing the bell in the Hindu temple

Hindu temple

Locals buying Indian sweets at the outdoor stall

> Read the next post (Chicken rice and Nyonya cendol, Melaka)

View Larger Map

Klang Lek Bak Kut Teh
27, Jalan Teluk Pulai
41100 Klang, Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 3371 7664

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 7.30am – 9.00pm

View Larger Map

Batu Caves

Sri Subramaniam Temple,
68100 Selayang, Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 2287 9422

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 6am - 9pm

> Read the next post (Chicken rice and Nyonya cendol, Melaka)
20 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/01/2010 02:26:00 am


  • At 5/29/2010 3:42 am, Anonymous Stomachs (six out of) Eleven said…

    What a coincidence! Stomachs (six out of) Eleven also visited a temple/cave and had encounters with lots of monkeys in Petchaburi, Thailand today! And G-man went crazy over some Thai dessert custards.
    Hope you're having a great time in Malaysia!

  • At 5/29/2010 10:13 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    What, no happy snaps of Billy caressing a big python?

  • At 5/29/2010 10:42 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    That pork intestine soup makes me giggle with its naughty-looking-ness but, dear heavens, all laughter dissipates into a cloud of longing when I come to the fritter sandwich...

    Also, thank you for the temple photos - it's all so colourful and bright!

  • At 5/29/2010 11:13 am, Blogger missklicious said…

    Those fritters look so yum! Especially the combo one.

  • At 5/29/2010 12:28 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    Oh Hannah, I'm glad I'm not the only one sick enough to see naughty things in the pig intestine soup! Travel 30k to try soup? You're MY kind of people!

  • At 5/29/2010 4:23 pm, Anonymous kitchen tables said…

    I am really amazed with what the Asian culture has. It is so unique and I am so interested with it. I can't wait to go to Asia.

  • At 5/29/2010 5:59 pm, Anonymous 3rd design said…

    Wow! You just gave me idea where to eat when I will arrive in Malaysia. I will be planning to go to Malaysia this coming June. I am so excited together with my friends.

  • At 5/29/2010 6:54 pm, Anonymous Renita said…

    Ahhh, look at that Bak Kut Teh. I can just imagine how potent that stock would be, so rich and dark! Banana fritters? Goreng Pisang - deep fried bananas in batter. I still haven't tried an authentic malaysian one yet! Thanks for sharing Helen. Looks like you had a wonderful time.

  • At 5/29/2010 8:06 pm, Anonymous yewenyi said…

    My relo's were impressed that we went to klang. I likes the tofu skins, and of course the fritters.

  • At 5/30/2010 1:12 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    the one thing i like about the caves is that its COOL in there haha


  • At 5/30/2010 4:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    love all the vibrant colours the country has to offer!

  • At 5/30/2010 6:14 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hee hee hee monkeys are funny, yuumm at all that good food! Minh is a soup drinking machine

  • At 5/31/2010 10:51 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Mmm those banana fritters are so pretty! Haha I am not a fan of walking up that many steps. I did something similar in Thailand and HATED it!

  • At 5/31/2010 10:58 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Can u believe I haven't been to Batu cave? I blame in on the stairs. The 3 layers deep fried goodness is my favourite snack.

  • At 5/31/2010 3:30 pm, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    All the fried food! Think of it this way, those stairs would have helped you burn off all those extra calaories consumed so you're life won't be shortened =p

    Yau char gwai! I was wondering where the heck us Vietnamese got the name of these from, it's pretty much the butchered Vietnamese pronunciation of it. I've never tried spelling it in Vietnamese either and whenever I've said the word it's generally how I've heard it said to me.

  • At 6/01/2010 10:14 am, Anonymous Andreas@MyGourmetFeast~> said…

    This post is amazing Helen! The food does bring back loads of memories..

  • At 6/01/2010 1:03 pm, Anonymous J2Kfm said…

    Klang Lek does a rather good dry version of the BKT.


    But seriously, for ultra thick, redolent with spices, herbs and porky sweetness, go for Mo Sang Kor.


  • At 6/02/2010 4:13 pm, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    If only I could have bah kut teh for breakfast every day, or at all. *sigh*

    Love the shots you'd taken of the monkey on the stairs.

  • At 6/03/2010 12:39 am, Anonymous Forager said…

    Ha! I have one of those posing with snakes photos from a Thai holiday many moons ago. Except that they insisted we kiss the snakes. Mouth to mouth. Who were we to argue?

    Looks like you guys ate like kings and queens - or more aptly - bloggers!

  • At 6/03/2010 2:17 am, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    The rain shower sounds quite dramatic, but the caves look lovely. I love the snake posers! The pork soup sounds wonderfully fragrant, but the molten sugar filling in the yam fritter has captured my heart.


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