Follow the satay trail
Kim Culyer is guided by an expert as she develops a taste for Kuala Lumpur.
ALAYSIANS love their food. At breakfast, they are already thinking about lunch. At lunch, they’re considering dinner options. With so much attention to the appetite and a dizzying choice, it’s important to know where the best places to eat in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
I’m lucky I have a great guide. Poh Ling Yeow, the 2009 MasterChef runner-up, was born in Malaysia and moved to Australia with her parents when she was nine. Her early years spent in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother left indelible memories of their family recipes, a fusion of Malay, Indian and Chinese influences.
KL really comes alive at night. There’s a dazzling display of light, from small red Chinese lanterns to neon skyscrapers.
When we arrive, the streets of the Bukit Bintang area are full of people and the heady aromas of barbecued meat, fried fish and one very particular fruit. Durian looks s like a melon with spikes and smells like nothing else, though stinky gym shoes come to mind.
The aptly named Food Street has a pedestrian zone lined with simple restaurants and hawker-style stalls where we buy satay sticks and other barbecued offerings straight from the flames for about $2.50 for two. We try rendang, chilli crab, whole baked redfin, king prawns, chicken curry, noodles, calamari, pipis and sauteed greens, delivered piping hot to our table.
After dinner, we head to Traders Bar, on the 33rd floor of Traders Hotel, with floor-to- ceiling windows and giddying panoramic views over the city. Its cocktail lounge has a pool as a centrepiece and is surrounded by cabanas and sofas.
The next day, we tour the colossal catering department of Malaysia Airlines to see the creation of thousands of inflight meals. The airline recruited Poh as an ambassador and she created a signature dish – Nonya chicken curry with roti canai. It’s available in business class and by arrangement in economy ($24, ordered at least 48 hours before the flight). The choice of dish was easy for Poh. “It is such a definitive Malaysian dish, a crowdpleaser, and curry chicken is loved by my family,” she says.
The catering department handles more than 30,000 meals a day and is the major caterer for more than 30 other airlines that fly from KL. Malaysia Airlines’ signature appetiser is the satay. Each day, 26,000 satay sticks are cooked over traditional mangrove charcoal at the facility.
Another highlight of KL is its shopping. The Pavilion Tower, part of the Bukit Bintang Shopping Centre, is so huge I get lost, though it’s all part of the fun. The Central Market is a mix of old and new, vintage clothes, trinkets and art, while Chinatown has a full range of fakery. After a hard day signing credit-card slips, we head to Morini’s 57 Bar, on the 57th floor of the third Petronas Tower. This is another super-stylish cocktail bar and restaurant, with views of the shimmering neighbouring towers.
We spend our final night dining at Restaurant Song Ket Bungalow, which serves authentic Malay cuisine.
We eat our way through appetisers, then sweet and sour sea bass, prawn and pineapple curry, chargrilled ribs, spicy mango and chicken curry. Unlike the good residents of KL, however, at this moment we’re not thinking of breakfast. The writer was a guest of Malaysia Airlines and Tourism Malaysia.