I took a trip to my hometown, but unlike Paul Anka, I didn’t stop just to look around. Apart from visiting friends and relatives, there remains in me its pervasive nostalgia – of which street foods top my list. As it was a Thursday, serendipity played its role in deciding for me to visit the weekly pasar malam (night market) at the Overseas Union Garden (OUG), a large housing estate some 8 km (5 miles) from Kuala Lumpur’s city centre.
Pasar malams are a fixture of Malaysian life style. They owe their charms to the rich multi-cultural diversity of the country. Pasar malam OUG is not a touristy place like Petaling Street in the old KL city centre. It is relatively more comfortable to stroll and to browse the stalls, unlike the overly-crowded pasar malam at Taman Connaught, located south of KL. The atmosphere at Selayang is not comparable, for it is derived from its role as a wholesale market. My brother-in-law KP had kindly offered to join us. Weren’t we lucky, for we soon realised that quite a number of the pasar malam stall owners know him. Come join me for a walkabout:
The maze of streets and back lanes designated for the pasar malam OUG come to a new life when business starts from 6.00pm, after the lights come on. So what can you find? And what do the throngs of people come here for?
1. Daily Grocery Needs
From the outer stalls come fruits and vegetables, and the local ones are farm-fresh. People come to buy their grocery needs here, and savings can be up to some 40% off supermarket prices, and more before closing. And there are off-the-stall food items you can eat whilst browsing the other stalls – and I found “big big” sausages, herbal-cooked eggs and traditional bammboo-leaf-wrapped dumplings.
Pasar malams have evolved from selling groceries to fashion (from bling-bling to footwear), really good street foods to nearly all kinds of everything! The night market at OUG attracts and draw residents from outside the neighbourhood, and is reputed to be the largest in the Kuala Lumpur area.
2. Fashion And Bling-Bling
Looking at the offerings I just wonder how low can a piece of clothing go! Never mind, at RM6 (S$2.35, US$1.85, EUR 1.35, GBP 1.10) a piece, it is less than half the cost of hotel laundry.
3. Street Foods
Ah! Real street foods of Kuala Lumpur are the catalyst for my nostalgia. Foremost item is the char kuay teow, flat rice noodle with cockles, bean sprouts, Chinese sausage and eggs that must be fried in a wok with high heat so that the “wok hei” – literally the fragrance from a hot wok. You can pick your dumplings, buy take-away crispy crepes and iced chendol and eat them all like we did!
4. All Kinds Of Everything
Difficult to categorise are surprising finds – mini cactus plants, snake oils and pain relief ointments,
Seasoned Singaporeans coming to KL know the whereabouts of the best roast pork, barbeque “char siew” pork, Hokkien mee, yoong tau foo, wanton noodles, bak kut teh, durians and other favourites. Unlike the Penang, Bangkok and Taipei street foods, those in KL are still not on the tourist maps. Just as well, for street foods in KL are already very well sought after by the locals.