A Walk Down Petaling Street

Read the recipe.

Finding Petaling street is easy enough. Just ask your taxi driver to drop you off the entry of China town and you can’t miss it. Let us meet at the small restaurant right at the upper end of Petaling street. Did I hear you right? Did you just ask, “what kind of restaurant this might be”? Now, listen good: although you are in Kuala Lumpur, you’re coming to China Town. That means most restaurants are Chinese. And they all have slabs of grilled pork and whole chickens hanging in the window. Get it?

I’ll be sitting to the left of the entrance, at a table on the sidewalk, with a large ice coffee sweetened with condensed milk. And chances are good that I’d be talking to my man Chang about last night’s football. Chang is a huge Manchester United fan, but do not tell him I told you. Just mention it casually during the conversation. It’ll be to your benefit. Let’s just say that for Manchester United fans prices are a bit friendlier, and that few extra Ringged in your pocket goes a long way here.

Now let us have breakfast. I recommend the Hainanese chicken rice. Let me explain: first a whole chicken is poached in water with some scallions and ginger. Once the chicken is cooked, the broth is strained to skim impurities and cooled. Ginger and shallots and garlic are fried and added to some stock to cook the rice. Chang’s grandma’s chili sauce comes with the meal. Try it, it is fantastic, but be careful, it’s tangy from the lime juice and those bird’s eye chilies, man they are hot.

poached chickenCan you see that old monk coming from over there? Well he’ll be here in a minute and he’ll try and sell his bracelets. I have seen him everyday and bought enough bracelets to last me lifetime. Now I just give him a donation. He said he is from the Thean Hou Temple, over there by Robson Heights near the federal highway Jalan Syed Purtra. In case you wondered, it was named after Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra ibni Almarhum Syed Hassan Jamalullail, a man whose name is almost longer than the entire highway.

Let’s go to the fruit vendors over there and see what’s available. Lychee, jackfruit, star fruit, dragon fruit, mangosteen, and those that look like a lychee with dreadlocks, that’s the lychee’s close cousin the rambutan. Close and better cousin, in my opinion.

Those round fruits over there at the end of the table that looks like young dates in a bunch, they are longan or dragon-eye. The Chinese people here believe that longan gives great internal heat and thus is used in sweet and sour dishes and in soups.

Ah! Here it is. The king of Asian fruit – or so they say. Durian fruit. Quite unique I’d say. In size, texture and most definitely odour.

You want to try some? Ok, let’s get one and find a quiet spot for we are not allowed to take it on the bus or train. And your hotel will simply show you the door if you rock up with one of these babies. But be careful, its heavy and those thorns can be quit sharp.

If ever the world was divided over a fruit, this is the one. Here is what Alfred Russel Wallace had to say: “The five cells are silky-white within, and are filled with a mass of firm, cream-coloured pulp, containing about three seeds each. This pulp is the edible part, and its consistence and flavour are indescribable. A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. In fact, to eat Durians is a new sensation worth a voyage to the East to experience. … as producing a food of the most exquisite flavour it is unsurpassed”.

Not to bad, I hear you say. But there are more. Anthony Burgess describes eating durian is “like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory”. Even lovers of durian find it hard not to be too graphic. According to Anthony Bourdain, “Its taste can only be described as…indescribable, something you will either love or despise. …Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother” and for Richard Sterling  “… its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock”.

I see you’re keen on a few t-shirts, maybe some designer items? Have a close look at the price though. Jip, you’re correct not Oakleys, but Fakeleys. Just they other day a boy ran toward me with brand new Adidas t-shirt. Or so I thought, cause as he ran past me, it became a Nike t-shirt.

While we here, lets get a snack. Maybe some Satay? Or some pork belly marinated in ginger, garlic, lemon grass and five spice and grilled with a honey and soy glaze? How about some hand-pulled noodles with stir-fried shrimp and Chinese sausage? Or my favourite – stir-fried noodles with gravy and pork crackling. What about some Poh piah? Little soft Nonya crepe-like springrolls stuffed with cooked green lettuce, bean sprouts, shredded cucumber, scallions and chopped coriander and served spicy Plum-Hoisin sauce?

Just what did Nando’s smoke when they opened a joint here? I kid you not. Just there, past the seven-eleven on the corner as you leave China town. Or Kenny Rodgers? Over that way, next to the mall. Mash potatoes? Fried chicken? Fake gravy and stale cheesecake? Be serious.

I know you said that you want to try Malaysia’s most famous curry the rendang. But be careful, these Malaysians will have you believe that it’s their dish. Nope, they most likely borrowed it from the Minangkabau people of Indonesia. But, I suppose most would want to be the inventors of the world’s best-liked dish. Spicy, caramelized beef that takes 4 hours to prepare and requires more ingredients than I have ancestors. But you won’t find it here in China Town, so you have to rush to get to Bukit Bintang. As for me, I promised Chang that I’d watch the football with him tonight. You know they say that ‘laughter is brightest where food is best’, so I think I stay right here. In Petaling street. I see the chestnuts are almost ready.


See you later.


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