One of the greatest pleasures is trying out the different foods and flavours, and in Jalan Alor there's more than plenty of it. For the locals staying in and around this internationally famous street there's actually two sides to the personality of this street. In the mornings from about 7 - 10 am the street is less glamorous minus the heady lights and sounds that give the street the touristy atmosphere. At this time of the day the town council cleaners are still busy moping up to prepare this part of the town for another night of revelry. The day gradually comes alive with office workers trying to catch a quick breakfast at their favourite stall before heading to another hectic day at the office. These are the regulars. The shop owners know them by their names or at least they would acknowledge their presence with a smile or a simple nod of the head. Some people don't really like to make small talk in the early part of the day, preferring to be left alone to their morning cuppa and the daily newspaper.
In Kuala Lumpur, and everywhere else in the world, good food is usually found when the cooks have to cater to a regular clientelle. You can only fool them once. In a food sensitive city like KL, staying ahead of the competition is the key to the survival of the business. There is nothing like inconsistent, sub-standard food to give you a bad reputation. Those who have been around know this only too well.
For the lovers of good food, you would do well to visit the food street in the mornings in search of the 'local taste'. You might find the street a little dull if you had visited it the night before. Gone are the DVD peddlers, guitar strumming buskers with their 5 English song repertoire, the tables and chairs encroaching onto the already narrow street, waiters trying to siphon out passing tourists into their shops, the colourful lights and even more colourful people.
The mornings are usually cool as the place is shielded from the rising sun by all the tall buildings surrounding it, giving it a well deserved respite from the 'busyness' the night before. Not all the shops are opened. And for those that are opened they are manned by a different set of operators. Most of them are owner operators, different from the foreign workers hired to cook and serve. They have been around for years, doing the same dishes with the same amount of dedication. The taste seldom vary.
One of the best BBQ & roast pork is found in the daytime here on Jalan Alor. Have it either on its own or with steamed white rice / noodles. We rate them even better than the more famous BBQ pork stall at Jalan Tengkat Tung Shin - better service, better priced and better pork!! We have noticed that quite a number of the locals and our neighbours on Jalan Sin Chew Kee are now frequenting this shop and we share the same opinion that this is by far the better place to patronize.
Recently we introduced it to one of our guests from Singapore and he bought RM60 worth to take back to Singapore, even taking the chance that the customs might confiscate the meat at the check point. That night he called to say they have managed to get it across without detection and have shared it with his friends and relatives. Needless to say he'll be back for more.
Just two doors away you will find one of the very few (probably the only one we know of in the city) chicken wine noodles - Christina's favourite. A couple of years back the lady owner actually retired after many years operating her stall on Jalan Alor, saying she needed a long overdue rest. I guess after a couple of years of sitting at home and not doing much she got tired of resting and re-opened a few doors away at the current location. None could be happier than Christina when she noticed the owner back in business. This is a specialty usually prepared for women who have given birth to help them reduce their 'wind'. Christina would only have to show up at the shop, find a seat and the bowl of noodles would appear in front of her like clockwork. There's little for the washing lady to do as Christina would 'polish' up the bowl, drinking the wine soup till the very last bit. In Cantonese we call this 'mermaid looks at herself in the mirror' - meaning the bowl is so clean you can see yourself in its reflection.
Go to Jalan Alor in the morning and you will also come across a coffee shop restaurant which is called 'Sai Woo'. You will find a good variety of dishes there including 'Wan Ton Mee', 'Economy Rice', 'Yong Tau Foo', Chicken Rice, Fried Rice, Fried Koay Teow, etc. This is an excellent place to visit for trying out a variety of local Chinese food. The foodstalls have been there for quite a number of years, some of them as long as 20 years operating in different parts of Bukit Bintang. They are mostly owner operators and they have developed a loyal following among the locals over the years.
Wan Ton Mee - As the name suggests it is not 'heavy' noodles but the name refers to the hand made dumplings cooked in the soup that comes with the noodles. The noodles are usually served with either shredded chicken or BBQ pork strips and a few leaves of greens. A standard bowl would cost about RM5. Personally I like this dish 'dry' as opposed to the dish coming with a soup base;
Economy Rice - This is the local equivalent of fast food, popular with office workers out for a quick lunch. All dishes are ready cooked in the morning and you will find a good variety of about 15 - 20 different dishes ranging from sweet and sour pork, tau foo, fried chicken, steamed fish, pork chops, chicken with bitter gourd, fried fish, eggplant, spinach, chicken cooked with potatoes, etc. When you approach the stall you will be given a plate with white rice and you are supposed to go around picking the dishes you want onto your plate. When you are done the price will be given and you have for yourself a nice little buffet plate;
Yong Tau Foo - Tau Foo is a soya bean product used by the Chinese in a variety of ways. One of the ways is to stuff the bean curd with a minced fish paste and served either boiled or fried. Over the years apart from just using bean curd, greens like red / green chillies, eggplant, bitter gourd have been used for this dish. Again you pick up whatever you want from the tray and you either have it on its own or you can have it with white flat noodles which usually come with a sweetish sauce. Each piece is usually priced about 80sen - RM1.