Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bites of Asia

In the second of a two-part series, Straits Times foreign correspondents recommend street food in Kuala Lumpur, Taipei and Jakarta

By Teo Cheng Wee Regional Correspondent

Kuala Lumpur

Malaysians love their street food.

It is so much a part of life here that the Tourism Ministry includes street food in its publicity campaigns and runs an annual street food festival.

Chief among its targets would be Singaporeans hankering for a taste of yesteryear, hunting down dishes that are no longer available back home, or at least not prepared with the oomph they once had.

Indeed, street food is a lot more common in Malaysia than Singapore, where vendors have all but moved into hawker centres or food courts.

Malaysian hawkers are also gradually migrating to more comfortable shop lots - and occasionally food courts - but thankfully, this usually does not affect the standard of food.

The good news for visitors is that some of Kuala Lumpur's top street food hawkers are located near the centre of town, where they will likely be staying.


Where: Jalan Dewan Sultan Sulaiman, Kampung Baru (next to Kelab Sultan Sulaiman). Fifteen minutes' walk from Kampung Baru LRT station

Open: 6pm to 5am daily

Info: Call +60-12-3361-200

If nasi lemak is the quintessential Malay dish, then the right place to look will be the Malay heartland of Kampung Baru. And CT Garden, which has been around for more than 30 years, is one of the area's most famous stalls.
It packs its fragrant coconut rice in small packets, along with a quarter hard-boiled egg and sambal ikan bilis (above). It goes for only RM0.80 (S$0.32), but the portions are small and typically, you would take at least two to three packets.

The stars here, however, are the tasty side dishes. The sambal tempe is a must-try. It has the right mix of spicy and sweet - and manages to remain crispy, not soggy. The tender beef rendang is another favourite.

Two packets of rice with about three side dishes will cost you about RM8 to RM10. Pay at the counter before you tuck into your food.


Where: 33 Jalan Dewan Sultan Sulaiman 1, off Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman. Ten minutes' walk from Medan Tuanku monorail station

Open: 7.30am to 6pm daily

Info: Call +60-3-2697-0998

The success of Super Kitchen's chilli pan mee appears deceptively simple.

Start with a bowl of freshly rolled handmade pan mee. Add some minced pork, a poached egg, ikan bilis and fried shallots. Top it off with a spoonful of chilli flakes. Serve and get lots of customers.

Yet this simple dish is the reason a few hundred people stream into this eatery every day to savour the delectable mix (the egg should be broken and all the ingredients tossed in the bowl before you start eating).

Owner Albert Khoo, who has been running the shop with the help of his brothers for a decade, attributes the popularity to his meticulously prepared ingredients. The chilli flakes alone take about half a day to prepare. The stall also eschews preservatives and uses only minimal amounts of MSG.

Each bowl of noodles costs RM6. For a fuller meal, top it off with dumpling soup (RM5) and homemade barley (RM2).

Be prepared to wait for a seat during lunchtime, especially on weekdays.


Where: Open-air carpark at the junction of Jalan Imbi and Jalan Gading, next to the Honda showroom. Twenty minutes' walk from Imbi monorail station

Open: 6 to 10pm, closed on Tuesdays

The Lee brothers have been selling Hakka yong tau foo from a pushcart here for more than 25 years, since the duo were in their teens.

They still make their items daily, briskly stuffing their fish paste - which is prepared at home in the morning - into chillies, brinjals and tofu before frying or braising them.

The crowds swell around the stall the moment it opens in the evening, piling the food on their plates. The bestseller is the deep-fried wonton. It is not uncommon to see customers order dozens of them for takeaway. All items at the stall cost RM1 each.

Those who miss patronising the pushcart food stalls of yesteryear Singapore will also enjoy the selection of hawkers selling char kway teow, chicken wings and satay at this open-air location, which functions as a carpark by day.


Where: 7A, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. Ten minutes' walk from Pasar Seni LRT station

Open: 10.30am to 8.30pm, closed on Wednesdays

Info: Call +60-3-2072-5020

Come early for lunch at this hole-in-the-wall eatery near Chinatown or be prepared to stand around for a seat at one of its seven small tables.

What everyone is patiently waiting for at Shin Kee is a taste of the dry beef noodles, which is renowned as one of the best in Kuala Lumpur. Each bowl of noodles is topped with a generous helping of melt-in- your-mouth minced beef, made from a secret recipe.

The accompanying bowl of flavourful soup comes with beef slices, meatballs, tripe and brisket - or you can customise it according to what you want. The springy meatballs and tender briskets are especially worth trying, and go well with the chilli sauce.

A small bowl costs RM7, while a large one costs RM9.


Where: 16 Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar Utama. Five minutes’ walk from Bangsar LRT station

Open: 10.30am to 10.30pm daily

Info: Call +60-3-2202-3456

Fierce Curry House almost deserves a recommendation just for its name. And yes, its food really is fierce. Although it has been open for only about a year, it has already gained a reputation for its delicious briyani and banana leaf rice.

The eatery sells 14 types of briyani, but the favourite here is the mutton briyani, which is cooked according to an old family recipe. Each pot of briyani (picture) – which works out to a generous portion for one person – is individually sealed with a pastry crust and steamed. The result is a fragrant mix of fluffy, flavourful rice and juicy pieces of tender mutton.


By Lee Seok Hwai Taiwan Correspondent

When in Taipei, unleash your inner glutton. The city simply sizzles with food - 24 major night markets sell everything from shaved mango ice to oyster omelette, not counting the many more smaller food streets that dot its landscape.

Foreigners have taken to local delicacies such as stinky tofu and pig's blood cake without much problem, thanks to relatively good hygiene. Many hawkers use disposable utensils and paper bowls or plates, even for piping hot food, which may not sit well with those who are environmentally- or health- conscious. You might want to bring your own reusable chopsticks and drink soup like the locals do - straight from the bowl.

Real street food lovers may also wish to avoid markets such as Shih Lin, which are overhyped yet perennially overcrowded.


Where: 115 Jingmei Street, Wenshan District. Ten minutes' walk from Jingmei MRT station

Open: 5pm to midnight, closed on Mondays

Oyster mee sua, oily rice and steamed pig intestines are as Taiwanese as it gets. That this shop, which specialises in these dishes, has survived for decades in a location neither touristy nor bustling testifies to the strength of its recipe.

And the quantity: For just NT$40 (S$1.70), you get a bowl of oyster mee sua in which no fewer than 30 small oysters are swimming.

Indeed there are more oysters than mee sua. To make all that cholesterol easier to stomach, the stall provides a free flow of a very potent chilli padi sauce, a garlic sauce and vinegar. The oily rice and intestines are highly touted too, but one single bowl of oyster mee sua was enough to bust my cholesterol quota for a month.


Where: Stall No. 91, Ningxia Night Market, No. 34 Ningxia Road. Ten minutes’ walk from Shuanglian MRT station Open: 5pm until late. No fixed rest day

Info: Call +886-092-0091-595

Visitors to Ningxia Night Market will have no problem spotting this stall, which always has a relentless queue – no mean feat considering it is located in one of the best food streets in Taipei.

Top quality yam from Dajia township in Kaohsiung County is chopped, steamed and mashed in a process that takes some six hours before being fashioned into ping pong-sized balls at the stall and deep-fried on the spot.

Hot from the oil, the balls are crispy, chewy and fragrant with just the right tinge of sweetness. They also come in a savoury version which combines the yam with half an egg yolk plus pork floss.


Where: 249 Raohe Street, Songshan District. Tail-end of Raohe Night Market, close to Ciyou Temple

Open: 3.30pm until midnight daily

Info: Call +886-095-8126-223

Juicy chopped pork marinated with pepper is stuffed into pockets of flour, stuck onto the walls of deep bottomed pots heated to 300 deg C and toasted for 20 minutes. What you get is a “pepper biscuit”, crispy on the outside even as the meaty content stays moist, so juicy that gravy flows out as you bite into the pastry.

As a bonus, the biscuit, which costs NT$45, stays toasty up to an hour after leaving the oven. Rain or shine, the stall opens daily in the afternoon, and likewise, the queue builds up regardless, so be prepared to wait a bit.


Where: No. 3, Lane 57, Tonghua Street (Behind Tonghua Night Market)

Open: 6.30pm to 1.30am. No fixed rest day, but never on weekends

Info: Call +886-091-8281-251 or +886-095-3234-682

Din Tai Fung becomes passe once you try Zheng Hao’s soup dumplings, or xiao long bao (NT$70 for eight). The dumpling skin is hand-rolled on the spot, stuffed with pork and steamed for five minutes.

Sounds generic, but the product is far from being run of the mill. Wrapped in the paper-thin dumpling skin is an entire mouthful of savoury soup and tender meat that will please even the most demanding xiao long bao connoisseur.

The stall is a nine-year-old offshoot of the original shop in Yilan county, where business is so good that customers take queue numbers. Here in Taipei, despite its near invisible location in a quiet lane, the stall draws a steady stream of customers who come just for their fix of its xiao long bao.


Where: Behind Shui Yuan market, along the lane which bisects Section 3 of Tingzhou Road. Three minutes’ walk from Gongguan MRT station

Open: 6.30 or 7pm until about 10pm, closed on Wednesdays

Info: Call +886-091-7943-277

Freshly deboned chicken legs are marinated for a day, coated with fine bread crumbs, then deep-fried to a golden brown.

The result is a crispy yet juicy feast of poultry that is less oily than one might expect. To top it off, each portion comes with a generous helping of salad with your choice of Thai dressing (NT$80 for the set of chicken and salad) or mayonnaise (NT$70).

Eat-in customers, who sit on stools at a makeshift dining area beside the stall, can get another serving of the salad for free.


By Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Indonesia Correspondent

Jakarta has a wide range of delicious street food that caters to different tastes. Many Indonesians have migrated to Jakarta from across the world's largest archipelago and brought their cuisine with them. This makes the capital a haven for street food lovers. Street food carts are spread throughout the city and are easy to find near office buildings and schools.


Where: A 300m stretch (behind Sari Pan Pacific Hotel) of Jalan Agus Salim in Central Jakarta

Open: About 8pm until pre-dawn hours, daily

This is one of more than a dozen Sate Madura stalls that line the Sabang stretch late at night, and is said to be the best one there. It is located outside the only police post in the area. Sate, or satay, is marinated chicken or lamb meat skewers grilled over charcoal. While Indonesia has many sate variants, Madura - an island off East Java - is especially popular for its distinct sweet peanut sauce recipe.

At Pondok Sate Pak Heri, a banana leaf plate with 10 sticks of Sate Madura with rice and a pickle side dish will set you back about 15,000 rupiah (S$1.90).


Where: Jalan Tebet Barat Dalam, South Jakarta (located just outside Radja Ketjil Peranakan restaurant)

Open: 6am to about 9am or when the chicken porridge sells out, daily

A bowl of bubur ayam or chicken porridge is a top breakfast pick among Jakartans. Street carts peddling it are a common sight outside office buildings and shopping malls, as well as in residential areas in the capital. They usually close around 10am.

The one on Jalan Tebet Barat Dalam, which crosses a very densely populated Tebet residential area in South Jakarta, is considered one of the best in town. It started out as one street cart but has now expanded to occupy two carts that sit side by side.

Indonesia has several variants of porridge. The one here is the Cirebon version, with chicken pieces, thin sliced celery, fried scallion, fried soybean, emping (melinjo crackers) and a thin curry sauce. It costs 7,000 rupiah a bowl. An optional side dish of fried chicken intestine or chicken heart satay is 1,000 rupiah each.


Where: Jalan Pecenongan, North Jakarta (near Alila Hotel)

Open: 7pm till dawn daily

This martabak stall on a raised shoulder in Jalan Pecenongan sells a unique cashew nut martabak, which is a sweet version of martabak. The cashew nuts are crushed and sprinkled onto the layered pancake.

One cashew nut martabak can feed four to five people and costs 60,000 rupiah. Add cheese for an extra 20,000 rupiah.

The stall also sells a salty martabak, which is the Indonesian version of roti prata - with additional fillings of cooked ground beef, duck egg, shallots, celery leaves and curry powder. A cucumber and carrot pickle side dish usually accompanies a salty martabak. The salty martabak costs 35,000 rupiah.

No comments: