For a true Malaysian dining adventure, nothing beats a visit to the hawker stalls, food courts or coffee shops that house numerous vendors offering a medley of gastronomic delights.
Even if you’re simply taking a quick stroll through the hustle and bustle of Jalan Alor, Petaling Street or Gurney Drive it would be hard to resist the persistent invitations to sup or the seductive scents of various fried, steamed, braised and boiled offerings that take mere minutes to prepare, without compromising on taste and quality.
The most popular and widely available variety of Chinese food here in Malaysia is the Cantonese stir-fry. A street food staple, the dish is stir-fried in a wok over high heat with just a touch of oil, vegetables and meat. Order to share with a selection of side dishes such as sweet and sour pork, chilli fried chicken and kai lan (kale) with oyster sauce.
Also a perennial favourite at the hawker stall is the Char Kway Teow, flat rice noodles stir fried in a little lard with shrimp, cockles, bean sprouts, egg and chives and a spoonful of chilli paste for a bit of a kick. There are some who lay claim that the Penang char kway teow is by far superior in taste and texture.
Though this may require a more discerning palate to detect, the islanders do have a knack for giving the noodles a subtle scorch without it turning crisp. Another Cantonese speciality is the Dim Sum, dainty portions of steamed or fried dumplings served in bamboo containers.
There can be up to 30 varieties featuring a selection of steamed pork and shrimp, steamed soft noodles, crabsticks, salted eggs, red bean cakes and baked egg custard, etc.
Food from the Hainan and Hakka regions are also quite common here in Malaysia with the ubiquitous Hainan Chicken Rice being one of the more popular everyday dishes.
In Jonker Street, Melaka you’ll find a quirky version of this dish as the rice is moulded into little bite-sized balls which you dip into a special chilli sauce.
Cuisines from Szechuan are less well known but equally delicious with strong dramatic flavours that feature a lot of chilli and garlic. This could have been the influence behind the widely sought after Chilli Crab. A delicious treat to enjoy with a couple of beers, Dungeness or Mud crabs are tossed lightly in a chilli paste mixed with garlic and ginger.
Soups and broths are essential in Chinese meals often served as an accompaniment but more often than not are the main dish themselves. Though not a product of the mainland Bak Kut Teh, a herbal, spice based broth stewed with different cuts of pork (usually the ribs) has become a firm favourite with locals. Originating in Klang, the dish was created to provide nourishment for the Chinese coolies who worked around the port during the colonial era.
The intense, almost medicinal flavour of the broth is the result of spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cloves, ginseng, garlic which are boiled for hours and left to simmer as the meat is added.
These are then scooped into a clay pot and topped with button mushrooms, dried tofu and lettuce leaves. The hearty broth is usually served with a bowl of rice sprinkled with fried onion bits. It is customary to finish with a glass of hot Chinese Tea.
Yong Tau Foo is a Hakka soup dish of tofu stuffed with fish or pork paste but has since evolved to include a variety of vegetables, fish balls, crab sticks, cuttlefish and fried fritters.
A Little Dim Sum Place
18 Jalan 25/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas, KL
Tel: 03–2300 0671
90A–90D Persiaran Gurney, Penang
Tel: 04–2288 272
SDCC 1A Jalan Bukit Kiara 1, KL
Tel: 03–2089 3788
Dragon I Restaurant
36 & 38 Jalan SS20/10, Damansara Kim, PJ
Tel: 03–7722 1888
Hai Siang Kopitiam
17 Jalan Puteri 1/6, Dataran Puteri, Puchong
Tel: 03–8061 6919
Hoe Kee Chicken Rice
4,6 & 8 Jalan Hang Jebat, Melaka
Tel: 06–2834 751
Hon Kee Porridge
Jalan Hang Lekir, Off Petaling Street, KL
Hong Kee Dim Sum
31 Jalan Puteri 2/5, Bandar Puteri, Puchong
Tel: 012–3897 901
Hoong Foong Dim Sum
77 & 79 Jalan USJ 21/10, Pusat Perniagaan USJ 21, Subang Jaya
Tel: 016–2031 972
Lot 10, Jalan Bukit Bintang, KL Marco Polo Restaurant Wisma Lim Foo Yong, 86 Jalan Raja Chulan, KL
Tel: 03–2141 2233
Maxim Dim Sum Restaurant
Bangunan Lip Sin, Lebuh Pekaka 1, Gelugor, Penang
Meng Kee Char Siew
20 Jalan Pekedai U1/36 Hicom Glenmarie Industrial Park, Shah Alam
Tel: 019–3793 629
Ming Court Hong Kong
Dim Sum 32–36 Jalan Leong Sin Nam, Ipoh, Perak
Tel: 05–2557 134
56 Jalan Sultan, KL
Tel: 03–2078 5879
Lot P104, 1st Floor, Jaya 33, Jalan Semangat, Section 13, PJ
Tel: 03–7956 9288
1st Floor, Sooka Sentral, Jalan Stesen Sentral 5, KL
Tel: 03–2261 3222