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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Assam laksa, stingray and clay pot chicken: Kuala Lumpur in one weekend

assam laksa kuala lumpur malaysia

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.

kuala lumpur malaysia
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.

kuala lumpur malaysia
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.

kuala lumpur malaysia
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

kuala lumpur malaysia
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.

kuala lumpur malaysia
Citrus and Candy, finalist for Best Photography Blog

kuala lumpur malaysia
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!

kuala lumpur malaysia
Hello eight-foot tall Citrus and Candy!

kuala lumpur malaysia
Chrissy from Childhood 101 was our first Australian winner, taking out Best Parenting Blog. Woohoo!

kuala lumpur malaysia
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!

kuala lumpur malaysia
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!

kuala lumpur malaysia
Minh and Squishies on stage

Go Aussies!

Minh's speech was succinct, heartfelt and deeply moving!

kuala lumpur malaysia
Pole dancers

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

Jalan Alor

kuala lumpur malaysia

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.

kuala lumpur malaysia
Rambutan, dragonfruit, durian and mangosteen at Jalan Alor

kuala lumpur malaysia
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.

kuala lumpur malaysia
Rojak RM6 (AU$1.90)

kuala lumpur malaysia
Petronas Towers

kuala lumpur malaysia
Giant Christmas tree inside KLCC shopping centre

KLCC Food Court

kuala lumpur malaysia
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.

kuala lumpur malaysia
Penang fried kway teow RM8.90 (AU$2.80); and
Chicken rice from Chicken Rice RM5.80 (AU$1.85)

kuala lumpur malaysia
Red rubies from Just Dessert RM4.20 (AU$1.35)

Lot 10 Heritage Food Village

kuala lumpur malaysia

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.

kuala lumpur malaysia
Claypot chicken from Zhun Kee RM9.90 (AU$3.10) and
Cendol from Oriental Dessert RM3.90 (AU$1.25)

kuala lumpur malaysia
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.

kuala lumpur malaysia
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

kuala lumpur malaysia

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.

kuala lumpur malaysia
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)

kuala lumpur malaysia
Nicole from Planning with Kids and Alicia from Sea of Ghosts 

Breakfast buffet at the Marriott, Putrayaya

kuala lumpur malaysia
Teh tarik

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.

kuala lumpur malaysia
Egg station; deep-fried mantou rolls;
Roti making; Breakfast Day 1: congee, roti, curry, fruit and teh tarik

kuala lumpur malaysia
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

kuala lumpur malaysia
Gingerbread houses and giant gingerbread boot

kuala lumpur malaysia
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!

La Manila
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

Marriott Putraya
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
26 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/20/2011 03:42:00 am


  • At 12/20/2011 5:18 am, Blogger German said…

    Those Custard cake look amazing, a proper Portuguese heritage

  • At 12/20/2011 8:12 am, Anonymous Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    Congratulations for being nominated for such an award, Helen. Despite not winning, I think you've acheived something huge and as a fellow food blogger, am very proud. You're still a winner :)

  • At 12/20/2011 8:40 am, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    Oh Helen! Where does one start? Only you could get off a flight and head straight to the food! The awards looked like fun...in fact everything is so bright, colourful and delicious! Good to see you enjoyed yourself.

  • At 12/20/2011 9:13 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    What a great experience! Now, how do you think I can get my hands on that 8 foot banner of you?

  • At 12/20/2011 9:25 am, Anonymous Spaghetti Blogenese said…

    Huge congratulations on your nomination - what a wonderful achievement. The trip to KL tops it all off! Nom nom nom.

  • At 12/20/2011 10:38 am, Blogger Mel said…

    If I'd had seen an 8ft banner of me hanging anywhere I'd but up there ripping it down...good grief Charlie Brown. And once that was done I'd be out there hitting the town up for some food. What an amazing feast you guys had. Jealous.

  • At 12/20/2011 10:51 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    kayaaaaaa! no durian this trip?

  • At 12/20/2011 11:09 am, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    you did well in terms of food on a weekend! i miss malaysia and cant wait to head back for some food - like you think i will just be eating and no shopping!

  • At 12/20/2011 12:29 pm, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    *sniff* your malaysia posts always make me a little homesick! oh how I miss assam laksa and kaya toast, and gotta love Malaysia hotel buffet breakfasts.

  • At 12/20/2011 2:23 pm, Anonymous Chopinand @ ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    Congratulations! Your blog is such a worthy representation among so many food blogs in Australia. Looks like it was a great eating trip in KL too! Well done.

  • At 12/20/2011 3:56 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Eight feet tall is nothing compared to the size of your awesomeness and food writing prowess! You need a SQUILLION FEET TALL banner that goes on forever to capture your magnificence.

    After all, who else could display this amount of dedication to awesome food in one weekend? I bow down to you (as always).

  • At 12/20/2011 7:36 pm, Anonymous Caz Makepeace said…

    so hungry for
    Malaysian food again! So wish that I got to check out lot 10! Awesome recap of a great weekend. So lovely to meet you

  • At 12/20/2011 7:52 pm, Blogger Koh Kian Fai said…

    nice post! I think that if you got more time to spare, perhaps you can find more food in the town too ^^

  • At 12/20/2011 8:16 pm, Anonymous mrs ed said…

    helen, can mr ed and i tag along to one of your japan/malaysia/singapore trips? lol love the food u posted here

  • At 12/20/2011 9:12 pm, Anonymous Iron Chef Shellie said…

    So Jelly!!! what an awesome looking weekend!

  • At 12/20/2011 10:58 pm, Anonymous Lina said…

    Hey Helen - it actually looks like you blogged my trip to KL from 12 months ago. I ate at all those places, and more. Loved, loved, loved the stingray from Jalan Alor, and the assam laska from just about any koptiam (esp the place that used prawns instead of mackarel). Do you have a recipe for the spices/sauce they put on the stingray, and/or a good, spicy assam laksa? A year later I'm still drooling over them, and this blog is only making it worse! LOL

  • At 12/20/2011 11:59 pm, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    What an epic weekend. I wish I could hop on a plane now and have all that street food immediately. Congrats once again on being a finalist!

  • At 12/21/2011 12:31 am, Anonymous Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    What a whirlwind trip but it was such a blast celebrating with you. Malaysia just isn't Malaysia without experiencing the chaos and smells of hawkers. Relaxing at Jalan Alor was definitely the highlight of the weekend :)

  • At 12/21/2011 9:32 am, Anonymous Apple @Polkadotsandchopsticks said…

    My god, all that in just two days?!? You deserve an award just for that! But congratulations to making it to the finals, excellent job!

  • At 12/21/2011 1:02 pm, Blogger Choux Choux said…

    This looks so amazing. Now I really want to go back to malaysia! I need me some assam laksa stat!

  • At 12/21/2011 6:47 pm, Anonymous Billy @ A Table For Two said…

    LOL @ Liz's dino tail! How did she sit down?? hahahah awesome! :)

    congrats to Minh!

  • At 12/22/2011 2:26 am, Blogger Bubbie said…

    I"m having trouble sharing your posts on Facebook using the share button :(

  • At 12/22/2011 1:58 pm, Blogger Brenda said…

    Congrats for being nominated, that is huge already!!! We love your work! :)

  • At 12/23/2011 11:48 am, Anonymous David said…

    How I miss the food already! Great coverage of the food choices and regret not eating more when I was there! Heritage was a great stop to cram as much as we could to satisfy our taste buds!

    Thanks again for coming over as a finalist and I must say well deserved! I'm a little bias but I really did hope you won Best Food!

    Have a great festive season break!


  • At 12/26/2011 9:51 am, Blogger Kerancia said…

    Helen, Love all the pictures! :) Missing Cendol and Char kway teow right now...

  • At 12/26/2011 9:54 am, Blogger Kerancia said…

    Forgot to say, Congratulations on your nomination - well done! Girl power!!


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