Khoollect Explores – A Food Tour of Malaysia’s Petaling Street

When you think of exploring Malaysia lazing on golden beaches, jostling through bustling city streets and soaking in its ancient history comes to mind. But more than that, more than all of them put together, is the promise of their food which tempts us to travel so far overseas. Luckily one of our brilliant Khoollect community members, Shelby Kho, blogger and founder of beauty brand Bisou BonBon happens to live there and knows more than most about where to go. We asked her to share her top tips for travelling to Malaysia’s fabulous Petaling Street, here’s what she told us…

Kuala Lumpur Chinatown is a nook with many names. From Chow Kit Road, Chee Cheong Kai to Jalan Petaling, the many names signal the ever expanding influences and cuisines forming in one very special area.

Despite the ongoing gentrification, Petaling Street still remains as charming as it was to me in my youth. Walking through the neighbourhood of Petaling Street, you cannot help but pick up on remnants of how this spot in town was formerly the pulse of the city.

It is never without a tempting sense of mystery and curiosity but most of all, it’s the amalgamation of cultures and heritage which is enough to seduce even the most reserved traveller. With so many things to do, it’s hard to do it justice but these are the nine things you absolutely must do in Petaling Street.

1. Eat

Get acquainted with nasi lemak, Malaysia’s national dish, at Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock.

Slurp wonton noodles at Koon Kee (Jalan Hang Lekir) that has been in operation for 50 years.

Have Hon Kee (Jalan Hang Lekir) raw fish or frog legs steaming hot porridge as a morning hug of a breakfast.

When you finally have room, make way to Old China’s for their Nyonya laksa and top hats sure to make a hearty lunch to fuel the afternoon.

Just a stone’s throw away is Lai Foong beef noodle (Jalan Tun H S Lee) that has been in operation since 1956. Housed in the same Rubber Trade Association building is the delicious ‘lala’ / clam noodle, that is notorious for its one hour (worth it) wait.

2. Stay
Call the heart of the city your home when you stay at Mingle, a hostel accommodation housed in a preserved heritage building with nostalgic vintage décor.

If you prefer a more minimalistic approach to the stay, Back Home offers a simple yet chic option to hostel living. Breakfast at their in-house café LOKL is sometimes good enough a reason enough to book a night.

Or imagine yourself as royalty when you check-in to The Majestic Hotel. Take home that magical experience of having afternoon tea in their Orchid Conservatory.

3. Drink
When dusk approaches, make haste through the alleys of Petaling Street in search of PS150, formerly a pre-war brothel now a romantic chinois speakeasy. Nothing better than an invigorating Assamboi Margarita or OuuHaa Gimlet with Borneo Rice Wine to tame the heat and humidity. Oh and tell Angel the bartender, Shelby says hi!

4. Street Food

Move over fine foods because the gastro scene in Petaling Street is defined by its assortment of beguiling street food, namely:
– Kim Soya Bean (have the tau foo fah – silken soybean curd with white / black sugar)
– Roasted chestnuts (roasted in coffee and margarine)
– Sliced barbecued pork sandwich (pork jerky and floss in a sandwich)
– Apam balik (old uncle stall in front of Koon Kee making peanut pancake turnover for 35 years)
– Sweet potato balls, Jalan Hang Lekir
– Local Fruits (try mangosteens, the notorious durian, rambutan, mangoes and seasonal fruits like langsat)
– Air Mata Kucing, Jalan Cecil (sweet cool drink made from the longan fruit)

5. Coffee

When I’m in need of some cuteness-in-a-cup, I head to Coffee Amo for their delightful 3D latte art coffee and immediately the day seems lovelier.

Otherwise Lucy in The Sky serves a pretty mean cuppa.

6. Shopping

Trawl through the many stalls hawking souvenirs and spot some genuine and some not so genuine designer goods at the Petaling Street open air bazaar.

For early risers, Petaling Street plays home to Pasar Karat – a thieves market – selling vintage stuff, bric-a-brac and curious items. I would, though, caution you about pickpockets so be vigilant.

Oriental spoons and crockery from Yat Hang Trading (Jalan Tun H S Lee) and Kwong Yik Seng (Jalan Tun H.S. Lee) makes pretty gifts for loved ones at home.

Lose yourself in Central Market (Pasar Seni), just a stone’s throw away from the edge of Chinatown. You’d find yourself in a pickle (a good pickle nonetheless) with the throngs of local art and crafts stalls to shop from.

7. Instagram-friendly Café

Head up the creaky wooden stairs into the beautiful Merchant’s Lane with stunning cascading chrysanthemum and peony artwork juxtaposed to the gritty pre-war walls. Have an earl grey latte and the Italian chow mein. Swing. Soak in the sun. Spread that Instagram love.

Just a few doors away is the more rustic and raw Chocha food store serving ulam (traditional salad) stew barley rice and cincalok fried chicken with vintage tiles and old school grilled windows. If you’re lucky (and ask nicely), they just might help you with the Insta moneyshot.

8. Sights

Not short of its share of culture, Petaling Street is home to two distinguished places of worship. You can’t miss Sri Mahamariamman Temple (Jalan Tun H.S. Lee), built since 1873, with its majestic 5-tiered gopuram of Hindu gods sculptures.

The 129 year-old Guan Di Temple (Jalan Tun H.S. Lee) houses a 59kg copper Guan Dao that is said to bring luck to those who touch or lift it.
Look out for the lovely art deco gem of a building, previously the Lee Rubber building, that stands proudly in the middle of Jalan Tun H.S. Lee opposite the temple.

Then take a short quiet stroll down quaint Lorong Panggung where the residents still live as they did decades before.

9. Art

Take notice of Art Misfit’s whimsical mousedeer-and-crocodile wall (Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock) based on a local folklore.

Interact with Ernest Zacherevic’s ‘Rage against the Machine’ piece (in a carpark) along Jalan Sultan. The yellow school bus may not be there for long and that’s what makes street art all the more charming…

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Maria Bell

Maria Bell is a photographer and editor from the Isle of Wight. Talk to her about food and/or photog...


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