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Monday, May 30, 2011

Malaysia food tour with Adam Liaw: Nasi lemak, roti and char kway teow

Oh Malaysia. It was like I never left you.

Last Sunday night I landed in Kuala Lumpur with a contingent of fellow journalists, invited on a week-long media famil of Malaysia. The trip was a follow-up to the phenomenally successful Malaysia Kitchen Food Market, and the invitation to attend was definitely a rhetorical question. Adam Liaw, MasterChef season two winner and official ambassador for Malaysia Kitchen, would accompany us as our host.

Eight hours doesn't seem like a particularly long flight, but by the journey's end I was happy to escape my middle-row seat in cattle class. The airport smelled like pandan leaves, and we stepped out into the familiar humidity of Kuala Lumpur, its damp and muggy embrace clinging to your every pore.

I'd like more pillows please

Usually when I travel, I stick to budget accommodation, preferring to save all my dollars for food. Staying at the JW Marriott was a huge novelty, a marble and gold-laden tribute to decadence with a spectacular four-storey atrium in the lobby.

Bedside supper

The bed was covered in pillows, the room with lit with more lamps than I could find switches for, and the bathroom had double doors that opened out like a walk-in wardrobe. Admittedly I was most excited by the complimentary snacks on the side table - I was peckish after the flight and it saved me a trip downstairs in search of food!

Congee station at the breakfast buffet

We met for breakfast the next morning at the hotel restaurant Shook, a glutton's delight with buffet stations that included Western, Chinese, Malay, Indian and Lebanese options. There were waffles and pancakes, Bircher muesli and crossiants, but I was more interested in the congee section and the kuih.

Malaysian kuih desserts

Roti tisu

As soon as I saw the roti tisu, I knew what I was having for breakfast.

Stretching the dough for roti tisu

Adding kaya to the roti tisu

"Kaya?" the roti man asked, and I could only nod with glee as he dabbed on the caramelised kaya coconut jam.

Congee and roti tisu

The roti tisu was folded into a flattened triangle -- not the pyramid I was hoping for -- but it broke apart with an audible snap, the buttery shards of roti sweet with sugar crystals and surprise finds of kaya.

After breakfast we were met by the crew from Fried Chillies, keen to take us on a day tour of food at some of the city's best street food.

Heritage Village

Heritage Village

Heritage Village is one of their favourites for nasi lemak. One of the reasons behind their popularity is their sambal, the all-important accompanying chilli sauce, which is made in-house. 

Nasi lemak RM1.50 (AU$0.45) with beef rendang and fried chicken, each RM5 (AU$1.55)

We try some of everything: the tender beef rendang, crunchy ayam goreng fried chicken, crunchy sambal sotong cuttlefish, spicy assam prawns and fried acar fish. Central to every mouthful is the fluffy rice cooked in coconut milk and generous spoonfuls of sambal, sweet and spicy with notes of tamarind and a hint of ginger.

Diners inside Heritage Village

Heritage Village began as a small coffee shop serving Penang Nyonya food but has recently undergone a modern renovation. As we eat, there is talk of the changing face of street food, of children no longer wishing to continue the family business but seeking higher education instead. The Fried Chillies team talk about the new influx of migrants from Indonesian and Bangladesh, and how street food may continue through these workers, albeit with a slight cultural twist. And there is eventual agreement that street food will not die out, but is likely to be preserved in new businesses that will serve traditional food in modern surrounds.

Toast & Roast

Toast & Roast

I can tell I will love Toast & Roast just by the name. The street is nondescript and the decor is non-existent, but that just allows everyone to focus on the important stuff: the food.

Maltose heaven

Roast pork with crackling

Char siu barbecue pork

Inside Toast & Roast

Chopping up the char siu barbecue pork

Plating up customer orders

Char siu rice RM5 (AU$1.55) with medium char siu RM14(AU$4.40)

The char siu barbecue pork is the recommendation here. The pork is sticky with maltose, roasted to a fatty tenderness so each mouthful offers layers of unctuous flesh, sweet marinade and a crisp tile of crunchy skin.

Plain Hakka noodle RM2.50 (AU$0.75)

We eat our pork with Hakka noodles, slippery ribbons dotted with nuggets of fish crackling, and doused with lashings of sweetened soy.

Crispy fish roll

The char siu is as addictive as crack. Even as we feel our arteries clogging, we're still reaching for more. And as we loosen our belts, the staff load our table with more food, the crispy fish roll best dipped in sweet chilli sauce and the pork green curry vivid from the use of kaffir lime leaves and basil.

Pork green curry

Char siu roast pork

We move onto Aunty Gemuk, a char kway teow stall inside Restoran Jamal Mohamed hawker food court, tucked behind the Football Association Malaysia (FAM) building.

Adding egg to the noodles and bean sprouts

Aunty Gemuk (Fat Aunty) isn't here today but business is brisk and non-stop. The fire is huge beneath the wok, the flames licking greedily at the edges to create the wok hei, or breath of wok, that is so crucial with this dish.

Ladling up the char kway teow

A jumble of rice noodles, egg noodles, garlic chives, bean sprouts, garlic and eggs are tossed together with deliberate fury. This Penang version includes cockles and a generous douse of chill sauce.

Ready to deliver a serve of char kway teow

Aunty Gemuk's char kway teow with cockles

The char kway teow is a little wetter and soggier than most versions you'll find in Sydney, but the cockles make an interesting addition.

Trip host Adam Liaw

Happy diners

Yong tau fu stall serving bean curd skins and fish paste stuffed into everything you can think of

Mamak stall

It's a roast chicken conga line!


The giant dosai welcomes you

Our final stop is at Kedai Makanan Raju, known by locals as Raju's. This banana leaf curry house was first opened by Raju in 1967 and has since been taken over by his nephew K Kannan.

Kedai Makanan Raju

The place is usually packed, we're told, with seating inside near the kitchen, or outside under the shade of umbrellas and leafy trees. There almost seem to be as many staff as people, manning the deep-fryer, serving up rice, or spruiking freshly made curries which they walk around on trays.


Self-serve curry sauce on banana leaf plates

Fresh coconut juice

Fresh fried chicken

Banana leaf plates

Raju's is one of the few remaining places to still serve rice and curries on real banana leaves. These are cut to size and placed so the stem faces the diner, creating a safety ledge that prevents curries from spilling on your lap.

Curry puffs

Everything is chucked in the deep-fryer here, from chicken to marinated fish and golden curry puffs.

Fried fish

Fluffy roti

Ladling curry over roti

Iced chai tea with roti and curry sauce

The roti are particularly good, flaky rounds of flat bread that is both soft and crispy, which we use to greedily mop up pools of gravy.

Deep fried fritters

I love all the cooking action, and the staff are more than happy to pose for a photo.

Freshly fried fish

Marinated seafood

Pouring teh tarik "pulled tea"

Making chapatis

Making roti

Flipping roti

Manning the seafood display

Service with a smile

Cooking demonstration with Adam Liaw

Char kway teow ingredients

Later that evening Adam Liaw demonstrates his version of char kway teow. It's a drier variation than the Penang dish we'd tried earlier, and one we're more used to seeing in Sydney.

Cooking char kway teow

A smoking hot wok is vital, Adam explains. He recommends that no more than 1-2 serves are ever cooked at one time, otherwise the wok will lose heat and the noodles will become soggy rather than smoky and caramelised.

Adam's recipe uses prawns, squid, garlic, garlic chives, egg, tofu, flat rice noodles, bean sprouts, soy and Cheong Chan cooking caramel.

Adam's char kway teow

Sky Bar at Traders Hotel

The rooftop Sky Bar at Traders Hotel

We conclude our first full day in Kuala Lumpur in style - sipping drinks at the Sky Bar at Traders Hotel. Drinks are steep by local standards (my tom yum tini of Bacardi rum, kaffir lime, lemongrass and spices was RM32 / AU$10) but with views like this, who's complaining?

Window lounges with a view at Sky Bar

Petronas Twin Towers

>> Read the next Malaysia 2011 post (Imbi Market and Yut Kee kopitiam)
<< Go back to the first Malaysia 2011 post (food tour with Fried Chillies)

JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur

183 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 2715 9000

Heritage Village
D-G-31, Jalan PJU 1/45 Aman Suria, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 7880 8891
Opening hours: Open daily 8am-10pm

No.20, Jalan SS2/72 47300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Phone: +60 (01) 6682 2249
Opening hours: Wednesday to Monday 8.30am-4.30pm, char siu available from 10.30am
Closed on Tuesdays

Aunty Gemuk FAM
Restoran Jamal Mohamad, 24, Jalan SS5A/9, Kelana Jaya, Malaysia
Tel: +61 (0)12 614 9191
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 7.30am-9pm, Sunday 7.30am-4pm

Kedai Makanan Raju Restaurant (Raju's)
27 Jalan Chantek 5/13, off Jalan Gasing, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 7956 1361
Opening hours: Open daily 6.30am-10pm
Level 33, Traders Hotel
Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), 50088 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 2332 9888
Opening hours: Daily 10am-1am (til 3am on Friday and Saturday)

Grab Your Fork visited Malaysia as a guest of Malaysia Kitchen Australia and Tourism Malaysia.
>> Read the next Malaysia 2011 post (Imbi Market and Yut Kee kopitiam)
<< Go back to the first Malaysia 2011 post (food tour with Fried Chillies)

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Malaysia 2010 - feasting with food bloggers
41 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/30/2011 02:55:00 am


  • At 5/30/2011 3:38 am, Anonymous Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    I'm so desperately homesick that it's not even funny :(

    But what an epic trip!

  • At 5/30/2011 4:54 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Such fun!

  • At 5/30/2011 6:13 am, Blogger ragingyoghurt said…

    oh helen. this post has been a balm for my insomnia, but now i'm hungry for roti, and also torn between drooling and sobbing.

  • At 5/30/2011 7:15 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Eeee everything is making me homesick now, even the pics of the pool at Trader's Hotel! If this is only Day 1, I can't wait to see how much more amazing food you get to eat over the rest of the week! *sobs and runs off*

  • At 5/30/2011 9:02 am, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    Wow! Can I repeat it? W-O-W! What a fantastic opportunity Helen. I love everything that you have showcased here. Especially that char siu! It looks amazing! I hope we can expect more posts from your trip!

  • At 5/30/2011 9:20 am, Blogger muppy said…

    Now thats a chapati!! adam is looking a bit chubbier then i remember ;P
    I am such a normal breakfast girl, but when we were in singapore we went to this funny little eatery and had curry and pancake style thing - LOVED it! still such a good memory....

  • At 5/30/2011 9:26 am, Blogger Mel said…

    Probably not a good post for me to read first thing in the monring as now I'm starving. The first picture of the meat at Roast & Toast was drool-worthy. Looks like a great trip, and the Roti - I want!

  • At 5/30/2011 9:35 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Oooh so much fun! I adore KL. I've stayed at the JW Marriott few times and only ever had one gripe - the breakfast buffet. By the look of things they've notched it up a bit since I stayed there last. The food options downstairs at Starhill Gallery are pretty good despite the increased prices.
    Look forward to your upcoming posts!

    ps: plenty of room for one more in that massive bed ;)

  • At 5/30/2011 9:44 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    LOL Back to Sky Bar again? Meanwhile, be still my heart! I think it skipped at beat when I reached the Toast & Roast photos... looks amazing!

  • At 5/30/2011 10:13 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    OMG, I just want to hug that hunk of roast pork....

    And quite a bit of roti envy here...

  • At 5/30/2011 10:49 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Doesn't it make you cry to see the prices of food in Sydney!?


  • At 5/30/2011 11:58 am, Anonymous Apple@polkadotsandchopsticks said…

    What an experience. Absolutely breath taking view!
    I love banana leaves for plates too.
    I'm a big fan of Adam Liaw, he's a very inspirational cook.

  • At 5/30/2011 12:37 pm, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    So jealous! Everything looks amazing! All this in one day! I can't wait to see more of your food-filled holiday hosted by Adam. Street food FTW!!

  • At 5/30/2011 1:24 pm, Anonymous Nic@diningwithastud said…

    Love following your adventures. You're like a roti fiend lol :D

  • At 5/30/2011 2:14 pm, Anonymous OohLookBel said…

    OMG, the amazing food, the cheap prices, the pillow-laden bed. You are so lucky!

  • At 5/30/2011 3:58 pm, Blogger amandajane said…

    I just found out we will be moving to KL at the end of the year and I am really enjoying your Malaysian posts. Thanks

  • At 5/30/2011 6:44 pm, Anonymous Dumpling Girl said…

    I so want the fried chicken and curry puffs. Lucky you were temporarily away from rainy Sydney :)

  • At 5/30/2011 7:10 pm, Blogger sebrob said…

    Going back to KL for the 3rd time in July: officially for a holiday, unofficially just so I can eat at Raju's one more time. Can't help salivate looking at your pics.

  • At 5/30/2011 8:37 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    OMG!!! The man is taken....LOLs...bahahhahah... good shot!

  • At 5/30/2011 8:54 pm, Blogger dyeo said…

    Thanks for the review. The photos look great and now that I'm back in Malaysia I can't wait to try all of them out!

  • At 5/30/2011 9:28 pm, Blogger Fat Belly Club said…

    Hi Helen - That sounds like and awesome trip! Mr husband and I just got back from a week long trip in Malaysia and we were so excited with all the food. Stepping on the bathroom scales definitely demonstrated my enthusiasm for trying all the culinary delights. Also, I wanted to thank you for your 2010 Malaysia posts. We were stuck for ideas for a last minute holiday and your posts were inspiration for our trip to Malaysia! Thanks - Paulina (Mrs FBC)

  • At 5/30/2011 10:05 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    OMG congee buffet! Endless Asian sweets the likes of which I've dreamed of! And just for breakfast! And fancy hotel bedrooms! I'd never ever want to leave.

    (Except for pulled tea and fish crackling. Those sound worth it.)

  • At 5/30/2011 11:09 pm, Blogger K said…

    Phwoar! Looks like you just planned my KL trip for me!
    Besides breakfast, looks like there's a lack of sugar hit in this post... ;) Hehehehe.

  • At 5/31/2011 12:31 am, Blogger Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy said…

    What an amazing experience! That char siu pork is making my mouth water....

  • At 5/31/2011 12:42 am, Anonymous Food Fashion Victim * said…

    Food looks amazing ~
    I need to go Malaysia !!!*

  • At 5/31/2011 2:47 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Haha I love the chicken conga line! I have a huge craving for roti and char siew now. Love the pics!

  • At 5/31/2011 9:02 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Wow what an amazing post - love the hints from Adam as well. Looks like Malaysia should be on my must go list!

  • At 5/31/2011 9:53 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I want a taste of every single dish that was shown in this blog. i can't take it any longer. just when i finally decided to go an a diet, i happen to stumble on this amazing, mouth-watering blog!


  • At 5/31/2011 11:14 am, Anonymous FFichiban said…

    Oohh wowed so much food (but can always do with more heh) ong that char siu looks epic although portions r a bit small :P also those curries and fried chicken mmmm!! So much goodness, so want to travel now haha

  • At 5/31/2011 12:01 pm, Anonymous chopinandmysaucepan said…

    I love buffet breakfast in KL Hotels because they serve a mix of Western and Asian food and I usually eat both! I can attest that Raju's is arguably the best banana leaf in the world, looks like you might have missed their deep fried pigeon and mackerel cutlets which are the best!

    I also love eating banana leaf with my hand because the remnants of curry aromas on your fingers serve as a gentle reminder of how good the meal was!

  • At 5/31/2011 1:53 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Amazing trip! I just had lunch and I'm hungry again! In your opinion, which would be the most authentic Malay restaurant in Sydney?

  • At 5/31/2011 6:01 pm, Blogger The Food Mentalist said…

    Ok I'm now looking up my closest Malaysian restaurant to get my fix! You lucky thing! What an amazing experience, everything looks so tasty. I'll take two of everything please :)

    I bet Adam was such an amazing host. His cookbook is fantastic!

    Thank you so much for this post. I've never been to Malaysia but can't wait to visit, if only for the food, hehe.

  • At 5/31/2011 9:25 pm, Anonymous betty said…

    oh man im sooo drooling right now

  • At 6/01/2011 12:40 am, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    omggg! so lucky u get to travel to Malaysia...AGAIN! and with adam too! so many great food, youre making me drool :(

  • At 6/01/2011 1:21 am, Anonymous dea said…

    YUM. Definitely going to look for Toast and Roast when I next drive up to KL from Singapore. Raju's is one of my family favourites. It's a pit stop for us whenever we're up north, especially since our usual lodging is my aunt's condominium which is a short drive away. I love the fluffy roti canai, fragrant fried chicken and some piping hot vadai - a kind of indian fritter. DELISH.

  • At 6/01/2011 1:26 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ooooh! I was in Malaysia last week and I saw Adam in chinatown with a bunch of people. Maybe one of them was you :P


  • At 6/01/2011 9:40 am, Anonymous April @ My Food Trail said…

    What an epic eating trip! How lucky to go on such a fabulous trip. Lovely photos as usual!

  • At 6/01/2011 12:37 pm, Blogger Gummi Baby said…

    I can't believe you covered all of that in one day! You would have had to roll me out of there like a barrel. I particularly loved your shots of the roast meats - maltose heaven indeed! Ha! I was eating my humble (in comparison) lunch while reading your blog. It sure made my lunch taste good! :D

  • At 6/02/2011 7:26 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Harry - lol. I think we'd all have to take a pay cut if we wanted Malaysian prices!

    Hi Paulina - Awesome. I bet you had a ball. Can't wait to read about your trip :)

    Hi lateraleating - There are lots of great restaurants in Sydney but I tend to visit different ones for different dishes - just like Malaysia. lol. I love the har mee and assam laksa from Malay Chinese, the rojak from Aseana Food Village, the char kway teow from Kopitiam and the roti tisu from Mamak.

    Hi Dan - lol. Yep, one of them was me! My pics from Chinatown are here.

  • At 6/08/2011 1:17 am, Anonymous Su-Lin said…

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I'm so hungry after seeing this. Haven't been back to Malaysia for years and now I'm wondering why...

  • At 6/14/2011 12:02 pm, Anonymous Hanim Hani said…

    u r one lucky gal!:) Love Adam Liaw too! he's very down-to-earth person and very talented.


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