In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where street food and hawkers’ stalls are the very essence of daily life, ingredients are of the utmost importance and reputations are just as important.
We all remember street food from our childhood days.
I am Guyanese born and growing up in Guyana street food was an integral part of our culture. Many mothers raised their children on the income gained from having a small stall selling fresh, home-cooked meals. The neighbourhoods knew they needed the extra money so we extended our support daily.
Do you remember running out early on Friday afternoons to catch the black pudding seller before he/she sold out?
Every city and country throughout the world have their own special food hawkers:
Greece- souvlaki , Lebanon – shwarma, Guyana – channa, Trinidad – doubles, Britain’s – fish and chips, then there are cockles – roasted chestnuts – roasted peanuts – fast fried noodles, just to name a few.
There are so many talented cooks around the world and yet we don’t give them the credit they deserve – these days talented cooks are pushed aside to make room for chefs with great PR agencies, fantastic screen faces, and badass attitudes.
Maybe it is time we started celebrating the cooks in our lives.
Hawkers know about getting the necessary licenses, investing in the freshest ingredients, and remaining consistent. They amass in food courts and Kopitiams, which allows for a lower overhead.
Food is cooked in the wide-open spaces thereby diners can keep an eye on how their food is being handled. Diners get to decide whom their favourite hawkers are based on taste, cleanliness, freshness of food, safe food handling and customer service.
These hawkers’ serve regulars who will let them know right quick when they’re unhappy.
In countries where street food dining is a national activity they make it much easier for hawkers to sell their food, maybe this is something we need to readdress in Vancouver. I would love it if we had these wonderful Kopitiams!
Malaysians celebrate every culture gastronomically so you can imagine how difficult it was to choose the best Banana Leaf of the entire culinary tour.
Best Banana Leaf Lunch, Malaysia:
Moorthy’s Mathai Indian Rice Stall
Address: Money’s Corner Food & Beverage Station, 144A Jalan Vivekananda – Off Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Brickfields, 50470
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Hours: 1100 – 1530 Daily
This guy is a second generation hawker, his uncle started this business over 40 years ago.
The stall is located at the far end of the food court or, depending on the entrance you use, right as you walk in on the left. The food court is packed during lunch hours but finding a place to sit is very easy, especially if you don’t mind sharing a table with strangers (great way to make new friends).
A Banana leaf lunch consisting of 6 or more items made with just-plucked and just-fished ingredients cost less than $5 Canadian.
Fried Fish and Fried Chicken are cooked a la minute. The owner buys the fish direct from the fishermen first thing in the morning. He will then rush it over to the food court to cook for the lunch crowd. Amazing.
Mutton Curry – lean fork-tender cubes of mutton in a thick, rich curry.
Potatoes Perattal, or dried curry, was simple and delicious plus the potatoes added that sticky element to hold the rice and sauces together when eating with your fingers.
Okra or, as Malaysians call them, Ladyfingers were fast fried with onions, garlic and hot peppers.
Pumpkin is a savoury vegetable? Yes, every day one could try a new pumpkin dish in Malaysia. This side dish was slightly sweet and spicy with a faint curry flavour.
Cabbage shredded and steamed just enough to retain a good crunch.
Snake Gourd Perattal (not pictured) tasted like ripened cucumbers with that fresh, hydrating flavour only a cucumber can impart. This was cooked in a lighter curry sauce, which balanced the feast on the banana leaf perfectly.
Crispy, flaky, spicy fried fish – fish that left the ocean a mere two hours before.
The rice was hot, fragrant and loose, and the tamarind based curry for the fish was tangy and spicy.
Rasom, a South Indian soup-like dal, as a digestive, and lime pickles are musts when having a banana leaf lunch.
What is so great about this meal is the overload of vegetables, add more plant based foods to your diet and you will feel the difference.