Hawker foods to eat in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

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. 


Nasi lemak food truck

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A day trip to Melaka, Malaysia

Melaka (or Malacca) is a UNESCO heritage site situated an easy 2-hour drive south of Kuala Lumpur on the North-South Expressway. Since its founding in the 14th century by a Sumatran prince, Melaka became a very important port for centuries by the colonising Portuguese, Dutch and then the British. Port of Malacca and its sheltered bay provided a welcomed stopping point for the trade route between China and India. All these cultures, plus the arrival of the Chinese from British colonies created an intruiging melting pot in Melaka. One of these is the unique Peranakan (Straits Chinese) culture.

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Malaysian cooking class with Zaida & Chef Liza

The longer I reside in New Zealand, the more I yearn for traditional food from my childhood. We can get Malaysian food here, but the lack of certain ingredients and the still somewhat conservative palate of the general populous mean we don’t get the truly authentic range of foods I used to take for granted back home.

That’s why I get excited when chance arise to learn how to recreate some of these authentic dishes. I  might be hard-pressed to whip these up on a weekly basis; but these are perfect when you want to surprise and impress family and friends with your culinary prowess.

A few weekends ago, Zaida Ahmad (Auckland Malaysia Society‘s Food Programme Co-ordinator), with her guest, Chef Liza, held a special cooking class. It is clear that a culinary gene runs in Zaida’s family. Liza Zainol, Zaida’s aunt, is a celebrity chef in Malaysia. On top of running her own Culinary Academy and jetting around the world advocating Malaysian cuisine, Chef Liza also manages her own television production company making her cookery series.

‘Sedapnya!’ (It’s delicious) – Chef Liza

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Kuih Momo

Happy Dragon New Year! May the New Year bring you prosperity, good health and joy. This year, the only CNY cookie I made is my long-time favourite, Kuih Momo (also known as Kuih Makmur). This crumbly, butter-scented cookie was only available during Chinese New Year and came in recycled Milo tins. My siblings and I used to ration this out precisely, and woe betide anyone who took more than their share! Even now, when I see a re-used tin, I fully expect to see cookies inside.

The recipe comes from Sunflower’s Recipe blog, which was recommended by Mum. The cookies are very moreish, but take small bites and be ready for crumbs. It is not advisable to put the whole cookie in your mouth, as the dry, crumbly texture have caused more than a few gasps for water.

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Kuih Bingka Ubi Kayu (cassava kuih)

This is among my favourite kuihs, – I love the bright yellow colour, the chewy texture, and the caramelised brown top.

There are various recipes out there; with or without egg, steamed or steamed and baked; with cooked, mashed mung beans; or even a microwave recipe. I’ve didn’t like the texture from the microwave recipe, but it could just be that my microwave power was higher than the recipe’s.

It must have been a bit of a mission to make kuih bingka ubi kayu in the olden days, having to grate the cassava finely. These days, frozen grated cassava is readily available, and you just need to defrost these in the fridge overnight or in the microwave before using. Continue reading

Teochew peach kuih

The name comes from the traditional shape of the kuih, which apparently looks like a peach (not any peach I’m familiar with, I’m guessing it’s a stylized ancestral peach). The Teochew peach kuih is a firm favourite with my siblings, and comes savoury (glutinous rice, mushroom and shrimp with optional meat) or sweet (sugared chopped peanuts).

The story goes that peach is the symbol of longevity and when peaches are out of season, Teochew people make these ‘replica’ peaches as offerings to the gods. Luckily for the rest of us, we’re allowed to share in this tasty treat.  Continue reading

Kuih making implements

With my newfound interest in kuih-making, I fervently scoured the baking stores and departmental stores in Kuching and Sibu for the equipment to make them. Unfortunately the traditional wooden molds are no longer sold; replaced instead by bright plastic ones. Though next time I return to Malaysia, I must remember to check the antique stores for the traditional molds.

Mold for pie tee (top hat) case

Mold for kuih bangkit

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Hawker food in Kuching

The food odyssey continues with visits to more of the kopitiams and food courts scattered round Kuching. I am amazed and bewildered by the sheer number of these eateries at what seems like every street corner, or every shophouse corner. You can take your pick from traditional, modern, open-air, air-conditioned, those specializing in a few dishes, to massive ones that reduce the hapless punter to apoplectic confusion.

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Kuih Lapis (nine-layered kuih)

This was originally guest-posted on Josashimi, but as I’ve been missing in action for a couple of weeks and am going to be struggling to keep up, I’m breaking the cardinal rule of blogging and re-using a post….

Kuihs (the correct plural is kuih-muih) are the quintessential colourful Malaysian desserts. I don’t recall eating them as dessert though, they were always snack food, – eaten on the go during the day or during supper, washed down with a hot mug of fresh soybean milk. They are typically steamed and made from rice or glutinous rice flour (though some are also made from tapioca flour, mung bean flour, etc). The range of kuihs is massive; some are specialties of specific regions of Malaysia, and come in all shapes and patterns, sweet or savoury, with or without fillings, steamed or baked or deep-fried. You can bet there is a kuih to satisfy the pickiest eater!

A small selection of kuihs (or kuih-muih) from a hawker centre in Kuching. 40 sen equates to NZ$0.17/AUD$0.13.

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Vera’s Kuih Lengang (Kuih Dadar)

This recipes comes courtesy of Vera, a friend from Kuching who now resides in Melbourne.

175g Gula Melaka (palm sugar) , finely chopped
2 tbsp caster sugar
80ml water
1/3 tsp salt
2 pandan leaves, knotted
250g grated coconut (fresh or frozen)

Crepe Batter:
1 egg
150ml coconut cream
200ml water (depends on consistency. Add slowly)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon pandan juice or ¼ tsp pandan extract

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