Jalan Alor - Kuala Lumpur's most famous food street

>>  Monday, October 20, 2014

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This is the tenth post in the Malaysia and Singapore! series. Other posts in this series include Lot 10 Hutong - Kuala Lumpur's Most Famous Hawker Stalls Under One RoofLaZat Malaysian Home CookingOtak, Otak Fish Dumplings in Banana LeafLittle Penang Cafe + Visiting the Petronas Twin TowersRoti Jala - Malaysian Lacy Pancake, and Nonya Malaysian Chicken CurryBijan, and Onde Onde.

A food series about Malaysia would be incomplete without mentioning Jalan Alor, the most famous food street in Kuala Lumpur. The street comes alive at night when many of Malaysia's most famous hawker stalls set up shop and sell all sorts of street food, from choose-your-own skewers and fragrant noodle dishes to   exotic things like frog porridge and pungent fresh durian.

It's very conveniently located, right next to Bukit Bintang, one of the busiest shopping areas in Kuala Lumpur.

Unfortunately, I only visited for a short while, and didn't really have a chance to try any food because I was already too full from our exploration of Lot 10 Hutong (only a 5-minute walk away). Nevertheless here's what I thought about it, including some links to good resources you can use from others who have eaten there countless times.

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Tiny Urban Tidbits - Exploring Boston restaurants!

>>  Friday, October 17, 2014

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Happy Autumn Friday!

I know I've been spending a lot of time on my Malaysia and Singapore! series. It's hard to condense, partly because there's just so much stuff to share. Crazy to think that I'm only about 1/3 of the way through all the posts that I plan on publishing from that series. (!)

In order not to alienate my readers who aren't that interested in Malaysia and Singapore (or who just would like to see some Boston stuff), I've decided to start adding some Boston-focused posts here and there, starting with this post which summarizes what I've been up to in the past few weeks. If you want to follow my day-to-day activities more "realtime", you can always follow my Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus account. I update pretty frequently.

Additionally, we celebrated Bryan's birthday a couple weeks ago with a crazy weekend full of trying a bunch of new restaurants (as well as some old favorites). I'll begin interspersing posts from this new mini-series, which I'll call Bryan's Birthday Weekend Extravaganza, where I'll highlight some of the awesome meals we tried that weekend.

I'll give you a sneak peek of that series in this post. :)

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Onde Onde (sticky rice balls) LaZat Malaysian Cooking School

>>  Thursday, October 16, 2014

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This is the ninth post in the Malaysia and Singapore! series. Other posts in this series include Lot 10 Hutong - Kuala Lumpur's Most Famous Hawker Stalls Under One RoofLaZat Malaysian Home CookingOtak, Otak Fish Dumplings in Banana LeafLittle Penang Cafe + Visiting the Petronas Twin TowersRoti Jala - Malaysian Lacy Pancake, and Nonya Malaysian Chicken Curry. and Bijan.

I have a horrible weakness when it comes any dessert made with glutinous (sticky) rice. Whether it be simple homemade mochi, matcha mochi cupcakes, or tang yuan (boiled rice balls in a soup, like red bean soup), I just can't get enough of its addictive chewy texture.

It's no surprise, therefore, that this phenomenal Malaysian dessert called onde onde became one of my favorite new discoveries during my trip to Southeast Asia.

Just imagine: rice balls flavored with aromatic, floral pandan, filled with warm palm sugar, and covered with fresh coconut shavings. The palm sugar melts a bit from the boiling process, which results in a fantastic "pop" of flavor when you bite into one of these things. I absolutely loved it, and am thrilled to discover this dessert.

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Bijan (Malaysian restaurant)

>>  Monday, October 13, 2014

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This is the seventh post in the Malaysia and Singapore! series. Other posts in this series include Lot 10 Hutong - Kuala Lumpur's Most Famous Hawker Stalls Under One RoofLaZat Malaysian Home CookingOtak, Otak Fish Dumplings in Banana LeafLittle Penang Cafe + Visiting the Petronas Twin TowersRoti Jala - Malaysian Lacy Pancake, and Nonya Malaysian Chicken Curry.

There's no doubt that Malaysia (or southeast Asia for that matter) is known for its street foods. Much of Malaysia's rich and colorful cuisine comes from the melding of flavors from neighboring countries with a strong street food culture: India, Thailand, China, and Indonesia.

Naturally, as a food-oriented traveler, I was most interested in checking out all the streetside noodle shacks, open air restaurants, and mom-and-pop stalls. Similarly, I was highly suspicious of high-end, beautifully decorated restaurants that seemed to cater to Westerners.

Nevertheless, it is hard to just eat street food for an entire week. You get tired of feeling sticky and sweaty from being outside. The flies buzzing around your food gets old fast. Sometimes it's nice just to sit down after a hard day of sightseeing (or business meetings!) in a comfortable, air-conditioned setting and having someone serve you really good food. Bonus if they also have some local beer or wine.
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After our first full day in Kuala Lumpur, Bryan said he really preferred a sit-down place for dinner. (I bet he was afraid I would arrange only hawker stall dinners for us all week long!) We stopped by the hotel concierge and asked for a recommendation.

Without missing a beat, the concierge immediately recommended Bijan and asked whether we wanted him to make a reservation. Although I was a bit hesitant (I hate making rash decisions without doing any research), we said yes, thinking we could always cancel later if needed.

It ended up not being necessary. We ended up enjoying Bijan so much that we actually went back for a second visit on the last day of our trip.

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Nonya (Nyonya) Malaysian Chicken Curry - kari ayam (LaZat Cooking School)

>>  Friday, October 10, 2014

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This is the sixth post in the Malaysia and Singapore! series. Other posts in this series include Lot 10 Hutong - Kuala Lumpur's Most Famous Hawker Stalls Under One RoofLaZat Malaysian Home CookingOtak, Otak Fish Dumplings in Banana Leaf, Little Penang Cafe + Visiting the Petronas Twin Towers, and Roti Jala - Malaysian Lacy Pancake.

I'm always fascinated by how geography and the movement of people influence food.

Nonya or Peranakan Cuisine fuses together Chinese ingredients with Malaysian spices and cooking techniques. It came about with the immigration of the Chinese to Malaysia in the fifteenth  to seventeenth centuries. The Chinese brought with them the dishes they knew and incorporated Malaysia's rich access to tropical ingredients, like kaffir limes, galangal, coconut milk, and belacan (fermented shrimp paste). What results is this incredible new, fusion cuisine that definitely resembles Chinese food but most certainly tastes like a distinct cuisine.

All of the dishes I made in my cooking class in Kuala Lumpur were Nonya dishes. Malaysian Nonya  curry typically incorporates local ingredients such as shallots, belacan, coconut milk, and tamarind. A truly "made from scratch" version would also include a homemade, grind-it-yourself curry (which is what I did in Thailand!).

This version is much easier for a person in North America or Europe to reproduce. It uses a curry powder from a reputable brand that can be purchased in the U.S. The only more "exotic" ingredients are tamarind (which I've found in most Asian markets), and curry leaves, which may very well be available in an Indian grocery store (I haven't checked). The recipe omits the strong smelling belacan (which is hard to find and a bit smelly to store!).

I haven't tried making this again at home, but I can attest that the version we made in Malaysia was delicious.

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