Street food is SERIOUS BUSINESS in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There are open air complexes dedicated to street food, called “hawker centers.” Like in neighboring Singapore, these centers reflect the diverse culture of Malaysia, as they serve quintessential Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisine. Stepping into any hawker center is a sensual experience – fish(y) smells engulfing your nostrils, the clanking sound of butcher knives against metal counters, the energetic shouting from cook to server…
Deep within these KL street food stalls, hawker center or otherwise, you’ll discover some unusual dishes. Without further ado, here are 3 of them…
#3 Chicken Feet Wantan Mee
“Pudu Market” is a local KL all-purpose food market / hawker center run by Chinese Malays. There aren’t a lot of tourists there, which makes the experience that much more fun and perhaps more authentic.
I studied the menus of a few food stalls and after munching on a chicken wrap, decided to order some “wonton mee,” (dumpling noodles) but with chicken feet. I’ve had chicken feet before mind you, but these things took up half the plate.
Food with chicken feet of course is not merely confined to Asia. Cooks in places like Jamaica, Mexico, and even Trinidad and Tobago incorporate chicken feet in their dishes.
Chicken feet are mostly skin and tendons, after you’ve worked your way around the small bones. Do be careful of these small bones…I definitely ate a few of them this time.
If you have problems with texture, this might not be the dish for you. Or it’s the perfect dish for you – helping you overcome that irrational fear of gelatinous food. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could tell your friends you ate chicken feet, daring them to do the same? You might just be elected class president. Just not in Malaysia.
#2 Frog on a stick
Jalan Alor is night market meets hawker center and is KL’s most well-known. This place, unlike the first spot we went to, is chock-full of camera-toting tourists, and for good reason. It’s quite impressive.
I opted to start my evening meal with some deep-fried frog on a stick. It’s not easy being green but I’ll have you know that frog legs are actually high in potassium, protein, vitamin A, and omega-3 fatty acids. The taste of frog is somewhere in between chicken and fish – a simple taste it has.
Frog legs are eaten in places ranging from Slovenia to the Southern US. I didn’t eat just the legs though, I ate the whole frog, because that’s how they serve it there. This was a first.
They really laid on the batter thick before deep-frying my frog. I’m told that sometimes the frog is deep-fried in soy sauce and vinegar. This time though it was just oil and when it was ready to be eaten, I sprinkled some chili powder on top for that extra kick. It wasn’t bad but maybe the American side of my brain couldn’t process eating something deep-fried without ketchup.
#1 Bull Penis Soup
This dish is actually more common in the Malaysian state of Penang. But my local friend was able to track down a place serving the dish in KL: ‘”Sup Haji Abu Bakar” stall in Jalan Doraisamy.
I ordered a bowl and I’ll just come out and say it…it was good…real good. The broth was terrific, being mixed with a number of Indian spices. The main ingredient was gelatinous, almost like collagen but with a harder jellyfish texture. They chop it up into smaller pieces to fit in each bowl and also so that male customers don’t feel as insecure. I’m told that they throw in the testicles as well at some places.
Fun Fact: This dish is also made in Jamaica, but the Jamaican variation has a white-rum based broth with bananas and peppers.
Whether the dish actually helps downstairs is another question but you have to admit that it does stand out (or up).