At first glance, Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown (or Jalan Petaling) looks like a haven for pirated goods more than anything else. But among the Transformers DVDs and fake Louis Vuitton bags you’ll find a fair share of great Chinese food.
Kuala Lumpur itself is littered with amazing Chinese food. The Chinese populace in Malaysia have a long history, many starting out as coolies working in tin mines. Given what I observed in Chinatown though, it might be more fitting to call the place Bangladeshtown. But amidst the curio shops there are indeed Chinese restaurants and stalls with special treats to be had.
We explored Chinatown’s hectic streets at night, and in between sporadic downpours. Climbing over endless stalls of counterfeit goods, we let our noses guide us.
Here are some of our favorite snacks to eat in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur:
#1 Bakkwa, or Awesome Sheets of Meat
Imagine standing over a photo copier but instead of paper, you have sheets of meat coming out.
Bakkwa, or rougan, are delicate sheets of dried meat, a food originating in China’s Fujian province. They’re like beef jerky, but are less dry and are prepared with a combination of spices, sugar, salt and soy sauce.
Malaysian bakkwa has a sweeter, smokier taste, as it’s grilled over charcoal, not just air-dried.
Overall, bakkwa is good greasy fun and great when you’re on the move.
#2 Steamed / Baked Cakes
With its long history of baking, China has an impressive amount of pastries in its arsenal. Many of these pastries can be found in Chinatowns around the world. Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur is no different and there’s plenty of variety when it comes to steamed / baked cakes.
We tried about 6 different kinds, from mung bean cakes (bakpia), to wife cakes (winter melon and 5 spice powder filled), to moon-cakes (I shouldn’t have to explain these).
You can enjoy stingray at the “Hong Kee” food stall, where it’s marketed as “Portuguese Grilled Fish”. Didn’t know the Portuguese liked stingray.
The stingray is grilled over charcoal and brought to you in aluminum foil and with a spicy soy sauce (sambal).
This was our first time to try stingray. It was as you would expect stingray to taste; 70% fish and 30% chicken. It was good.
If you’re ever in KL’s Chinatown, grab yourself some of the above snacks!
Here are some parting, non-food shots from this unique Chinatown.