Petaling Jaya (PJ) is part of Greater Kuala Lumpur, but is really its own city. KL sits within Wilayah Persekutuan (Federal Territory) and is governed directly by the federal government whereas PJ is under state government. It’s all very confusing to an outsider like myself. Though I flew into KL International Airport, which technically isn’t even in KL (it’s in Sepang), this trip I spent all my time in PJ. I covered satay in detail in a previous post, and here are some further hawker foods to get acquainted with in PJ. All of these places are my brother-in-law’s (BH) favourites.
Nasi lemak is a breakfast dish, often available in banana leaf bungkus (pack) ready to go from wet markets, kopitiams (food courts) and curry houses. Nasi lemak is a simple idea, and when done well, is ridiculously good. The body of a good nasi lemak is the coconut rice, then you must have excellent sambal, crispy ikan bilis (anchovies), half a boiled egg and roasted peanuts. Sometimes the ikan bilis is cooked with the sambal, sometimes you get a couple slices of cucumber. The nasi lemak truck outside the condo complex we were staying offered up a myriad of other extras, such as fried chicken. Every nasi lemak I had was good, some were downright amazing.
Goreng pisang (banana fritters) are a fantastic snack. The pisang goreng here uses pisang raja and the batter is thin and crispy. The banana batter ratio is spot on. You can find goreng pisang sellers at food trucks, wet markets and even in shopping malls. These sellers typically also sell curry puffs and other fritters (yam, tofu, mashed banana, prawn).
This unassuming house serves up the best bak kut teh (herbal pork soup) in PJ. Xhin Fhong Bak Kut Teh in Sungei Way is so popular that it often sells out by 1pm. Once we came at 1-ish and just got the dregs. It was okay, but I couldn’t see the fuss. The next time we came at noon-ish and wow, that was when I realised why all the high praise. The broth is thick and flavoursome plus you get free refills. The soup comes with pork ribs, pork belly pieces and offal, along with enoki mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, tau pok (deep-fried beancurd) and fu chuk (deep-fried beancurd skin). There is also freshly minced garlic and chilli slices to season your soup. The meat is tender and delicious. There is complimentary hot Chinese tea available, we asked for ice as it was such a hot day.
Hokkien mee in West Malaysia is a different beast to what I’m used to in Kuching. Here, Hokkien mee is sautéed in dark soy sauce, then tossed with cabbage, tiny prawns (still in their shell) and deep-fried pork fat. There are whole restaurants dedicated to this one dish. We ate at the most famous one, – Restoran Damansara Uptown Hokkein Mee, which spans 4 branches. I’m still confused why this dish is held is such high regard, it’s basically just noodles in soy sauce with some flavouring from pork fat.
There are food trucks serving Mamak rojak and cendol parked at strategic locations all over PJ in the afternoons. Mamak rojak is a veritable mix of textures (vegetable, hard-boiled egg, crunchy fritter) mixed in a spicy peanut sauce, good if you want something to tide you over until dinner. Cendol is a bowl of heaven on a hot, muggy day. The ice dessert starts off as a bowl of shaved ice, to which pandan-flavoured coconut jelly, gula Melaka, evaporated milk or coconut milk and red beans are added. My brother-in-law always asks for no red beans. Sometimes there is only standing room around the Mamak food trucks, so this is definitely food in a hurry.
I know durian is not your typical hawker food, but at Durian SS2 you can purchase and eat your durian on the spot. At the peak of the season, they offer durian buffet, where you can eat your fill of the cheaper varieties for a set price.
Kuih (or kueh) is a generic term for local snack food and are typically sold at various wet markets and food courts. Around PJ, you can find Taiping Lim Nyonya Kueh stalls at some kopitiams in PJ. The kuih here are of a consistent high quality with excellent flavour and texture. I was pretty much addicted to their pulut panggang and kuih koci.
There are so many curry houses around, and they all serve good rotis. But what I really like is the fish curry gravy that you get to dip your roti into. And forget about plain roti (kosong), there’s roti telur (egg), roti bawang (red onion) and my favourite roti pisang (banana). The local bananas small, vibrant yellow and so very sweet. And if you get tired of rotis, these curry houses also offer poori (deep-fried bread) and dosai (fermented rice pancakes).
There is a specialty in PJ known as Kampar claypot rice. At Choong Kee Kampar Claypot rice, you can choose extra meats added to the chicken rice from options of salted fish and/or Chinese sausage. Your rice and meats with soy sauce is cooked in a claypot and brought to your table. Be warned, the claypot is very hot. Then before you eat, you are to mix everything together, and scrap the caramelised bit off of the base of the claypot. I’m not enamoured of this dish, even though I’ll eat it for the novelty factor.
There are plenty more hawker dishes in PJ, but these are the ones which I felt were unique or done well in PJ, especially to someone born and bred in Sarawak.