PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is known to many as a food lover’s paradise and one of its many wonders is its mouth-watering, don’t-even-bother-to-resist street food.
There is just something profoundly fascinating and memorable in hopping from stall to stall, sampling the spread of traditional snacks, both sweet and savoury that have stood the test of time and remained firm favourites among the young and old, local and foreigner.
One of the best places to seek out these stalls is none other than Kuala Lumpur’s historic and colourful Petaling Street, where food vendors line the streets, tempting passers-by with treats deep-fried, drenched in sugar, steamed or roasted.
Here are the top five street foods found along the bustling lanes of Petaling Street that you have to make room in your tummy for.
1. Madam Tang Muah Chee Queen
It’s practically impossible to miss this stall as the speakers blare a recording of Madam Tang saying “Top quality, silky smooth Muah Chee” in Cantonese.
This traditional dessert is made of glutinous rice balls coated in sugared peanut powder.
Displayed all over Madam Tang’s Muah Chee pushcart are newspaper articles featuring her and her famous offerings.
You can find the fragile-looking 71-year old wearing her famous humble smile, waiting to serve her Muah Chee to eager customers.
One pack of Muah Chee goes for RM5 and it’s truly the perfect snack to munch on while taking in the colourful sights of Petaling Street.
2. Ah Loh’s Apam Balik
It would be a sin if you actually walked along Petaling Street and returned home without stopping to sample Ah Loh’s Apam Balik.
This 66-year-old man has been selling Malaysia’s favourite tea-time snack for the past 30 years.
At his stall, you can find two versions of Apam – the Penang-style Apam Balik filled with freshly grated coconut and the original version, which is piping hot, fluffy and filled generously with peanuts and sugar.
It’s quite a fascinating sight watching Ah Loh expertly cast the batter onto the hot griddle before sprinkling handfuls of peanuts and sugar on it as the batter cooks up.
The Penang-style Apam Balik is a steal at 70 sen while the original version goes for a modest RM1.20.
Ah Loh has a stream of customers and eager first-timers waiting to try his Apam Balik so you can’t miss this stall.
3. Roasted chestnuts
What a novelty to watch chestnuts roasting in a large drum by the roadside, even if it’s under the blistering heat of the city or a light drizzle.
While this is a somewhat common sight for Malaysians, foreign tourists are often captivated by the spectacle and stop to gawk as the heady aroma of roasted chestnuts fill the air.
60-year-old Cynthia, who took over her parents’ business, explains that she uses coffee beans and sea stones to deliver the best aroma, taste and texture.
Her stall has been operating in Petaling Street for the past 50 years and according to Cynthia, it’s impossible to find these roaster drums anymore.
So, the next time you find yourself in Petaling Street, purchase a bag and munch away.
4. Sweet potato balls
Forgive yourself immediately for entertaining thoughts of ditching your diet the moment you lay eyes on the caloric nightmare that is Petaling Street’s sweet potato balls.
The humble root vegetable is first steamed then mashed, mixed with sugar and flour to form a thick paste, then gingerly rolled into balls and deep-fried until golden brown.
The owner says she took over her father’s business and has been operating the stall since 1973.
Besides sweet potato balls, the stall also sells a variety of biscuits that are perfect for munching on movie night at home with the family.
5. Dim Sum (non-halal)
What better way to conclude your Petaling Street food hunt than indulging in something savoury, colourful and piping hot?
While you go about choosing your favourite shrimp and pork Dim Sum, this particular stall also sells a rather unconventional cheese-flavoured version. So why not give it a try?
He also has the now trendy salted-egg yolk pau if you feel like making your food hunt an adventurous one.
Feeling hungry yet? Why not head over to Petaling Street the next time you’ve got some time on your hands and a hungry belly to fill?
But remember to stay safe, everyone – practise social distancing and wear your face mask at all times.