Petaling Street Food

The problem with expectations is that most times, I get disappointed. Sorely disappointed! Or maybe my tastebuds grew up and know what’s good from well, what’s bad.
I just came home from a short time in KL. Petaling Street to be exact. Petaling Street is Chinatown and it’s a food haven. And I, armed with my Flavours Good Food Guide, was raring to try the recommended cafes, hawker stalls and restaurants.
Here’s my opinion after trying out some of the recommendations.
1. Maybe the good food guide is for people who have not lived in Penang. We Penangites are finicky and food must be damn good or it’s no good in our books. The taste must be exquisite, not so-so or boleh tahan lar. There’s simply no boleh tahan in our vocab.
2. Perhaps my tastebuds have matured considerably since I was eight years old. The last time I tasted Sei Ngan Chai’s famous roast duck – well, I thought the duck was superb. Last week, I may have gorged too much on roast duck. The ever famous stall right in the midst of Chinatown still has its queue of people lining up for the ducks and ‘ngap kiok pow’ (half a duck is RM18, a whole duck is RM32, while Ngap Kiok Pow is RM1.50). The ‘ngap kiok pow’ will provide you much taurine and a good chew although it is not technically a ‘pow’ (as in steamed bun). Still, I am partial to Ayer Itam’s Pei-pa Roast Duck.
3. Yook Woo Hin’s dim sum does not score points with me. I like dainty dim sum but you won’t find tiny ones in Yook Woo Hin, supposedly the famous dim sum restaurant in Chinatown, dating back to pre-Merdeka era. Their siew mai is the size of fish ball and a bit on the salty side. Their phai kuat is not bad, steeped in wine and steamed while their ‘nai yau pow’ is quite lovely. Other than that, I didn’t really see what the big fuss was about. And I was there on a Sunday too and the crowd wasn’t that strong. Come to Penang’s Tai Thong for superlicious siew mai which is more dainty and tasty!
4. Koong Woh Tong is one gem of a find though. This herbal drink shop serves really good ‘fu cha’ (bitter tea) which can kill even the toughest flu germs! At a reasonable RM1.30 per bowl (yes, it’s served old style, in ceramic bowls), you can quench your thirst and feel really good afterwards. And if you think you’re seeing double, nah, these enterprising people have two shops – at both ends of Petaling Street. The huge gold-coloured cauldron steamers beckon from a long way off.
5. How could I leave Petaling Street without having some air mata kucing at the famous Hong Leong Bank corner? I remember it used to be served in stainless steel bowls, replete with stainless steel spoons back in the 90s (yup, that makes me feel old already!). Now, the same thing is served in polystyrene cups, on which it is written “mou dak teng” (incomparable)! I much prefer it the old way, in stainless steel bowls. A lot more authentic. But I do know that the air mata kucing is much too sweet for my liking!
6. Bak kut teh is definitely NOT a KL specialty. A Selangor one perhaps. I am used to Klang bak kut teh with real ribs and lots of vegetables and the one I had opposite Public Bank, Jalan Tun HS Lee, was just not the real thing. And it is a lot more pricey too. If anyone wants good old bak kut teh, please go to Klang. And if you are driving, go further. Go to Jenjarom or even Banting for some lipsmacking stuff. Now those places serve homestyle bak kut teh, not the watered down version.
7. Toast and coffee. This little nondescript shop is not difficult to find. Yong Bee (diagonally opposite Uda Ocean supermart) is a tiny corner shop which serves toast and coffee. I had great hope for this place. It looked like the perfect place for a cuppa. It was. The coffee, according to the coffeeholic of a husband of mine, is damn good. I picked my way around the toast. The kaya was so-so. You know, I have tasted better toast and kaya. I didn’t see what the fuss was about. Call me finicky but that’s what I am I guess.
As you can see, I was quite miffed that the food in Chinatown didn’t really meet my expectations. Either I am too pampered by the food in Penang or the smog in Pudu really blocked my brain cells. Of course taste is subjective. But I reverred my Flavours Good Food Guide…..
* In case you’re wondering, what the heck is this Good Food Guide I’m going on and on about… it’s a special pull-out mini-mag which comes with my Flavours magazine. They’ve done good food guides on major towns in Malaysia and it seems quite credible.

9 thoughts on “Petaling Street Food”

  1. Hei lady.. how come no mention about the abundant Sundanese food during your last visit. I am impartial with what you have to say since I don’t own House of Sundan anyway. If it’s below your expectations just let your creative juices out in the open.

  2. Hi Kate,
    I usually review what’s paid with my own moolah! You gave me a good dinner that night in KLCC dear, and for that, I am absolutely grateful. You do a review on House of Sundanese Food.;-) I enjoyed the companionship more than the meal and you know that. And thanks for the gorgeous earrings.

  3. Hi Hoyoyi,
    Sometime in August. Will call you when I am back. We must go for nasi lemak. There’s nothing better than Banting nasi lemak eh? With lots of sambal sotong yum yum. And not to mention, good bak kut teh. I tell you, the KL version is not bak kut teh at all.

  4. Oy, come here never call me lah!!! 🙂 But I have to agree with you…Penang food IS the best cause my father from Penang and up until today, our eyes light up every time we see ‘Penang Laksa’ or ‘Penang anything else’ on drives. Just can’t take Penang out of us…my father, in particular.

  5. Personally I dunno what is so nice about yook woo hin. The dimsum is priced like middle class restaurant but the taste is really disappointing. No need to be a penangite (Yook woo hin would lose to Chew Chun in Jalan Raja Uda and Toh Yuen in Campbell) , Yook woo hin lose to most dimsumshop in KL.
    Siew mai? even the char siew pau lose to the lorong in Petaling street (there is a lorong that sells pau near the chicken rice shop,very near nam heong chicken rice)
    No wonder they closed down.Excuse is MRT but I think the crowd is no longer strong.

    • Hi Paul: Thanks for your comments. Yes, sometimes food can be overly tinged with nostalgia but the food itself isn’t much to shout about. Even in Penang, really good dimsum is not easy to find. These days dimsum especially the coffeeshop types having been losing their appeal. Too much fatty stuff.

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