Once an untrodden gem shrouded in thick forest, and hence its moniker ‘Poon San Pah’, Pudu is now characterised by a wealth of street eats and historic architecture. We list the top things to eat in this historic neighbourhood.
A good curry broth is oftentimes a solo performer. Its flavours are robust, creamy and assertive, and the rest of the supporting ingredients – yellow noodles, long beans, tau fu pok, pig skin and cockles – can’t help but dance to its spicy tunes. And it’s exactly this sort of broth that holds 168’s curry noodles together. The chewy noodles are slicked with curry while the airy tau fu poks – when bitten into – create mini explosions of flavour in our mouths. A refreshing, fleeting hint of mint wafts up every time we draw the noodles to our lips. Take note of the accompanying sambal, which pulls no punches – it burns.
Sometimes, the best dessert is the kind that arrives in a plastic bowl. Sulaiman’s cendol is a revival of a childhood staple – one you’ll often find by the roadside hawked by an old Indian uncle. Slithery green cendol, coconut milk, kidney beans and gula Melaka slosh around in a bowl of shaved ice as Sulaiman churns out one after another to a long line of customers. It seems this simple treat is being given the reverence it deserves; unfortunately that means you’ll have to stand in queue for a while.
Preparing a perfect bowl of wantan mee is all about timing. The cook at Restoran 168 takes some egg noodles twined together like a ball of yarn and unspools them in boiling water before dunking them in cold water to maintain their springiness. After a quick toss in dark soy sauce, the noodles are crowned with slivers of char siew and chopped scallions. Why are we sure this is good? The proof is in the dumplings.
Housed in a single coconut shell, Keong Kee’s famed coconut herbal chicken soup exudes a sharp herby tang, coupled with a faintly bitter aftertaste – Chinese herbal soup doesn’t get more comforting than this. Of course, it’s not the only soup you should try from the long-running street stall’s myriad steamers – we also recommend the ginseng root and old cucumber varieties.
This decades-old stall ladles up bowl after bowl of noodles for those looking to catch a break in the printing district. The herbal broth alone is something to relish: It’s the colour of black tea and delicately spiced, mildly sweet and deeply complex all at once. Throw in housemade beef balls, strips of brisket and fresh, starchy noodles for an expert play on flavours and textures.
Instead of scrambling to different stalls in KL for the best nyonya kuih and local desserts, PMK has them all under one roof. The owner parades her kuih lapis, angkoo, yam cake, popiah and sweet dumplings behind glass – an enticing sight that makes the selection process even more difficult. When the queue gets too daunting at Tuck Cheong next door, you can count on PMK to hold off your hunger pangs.
Dabu is a centre of Hakka culture in the Guangdong province of China, so it’s technically not wrong to call Chun Kee’s signature noodles Hakka mee. Chun Kee, now run by the fourth generation, has stood the test of time for more than 80 years, and their inclination towards simple food certainly shows. Served with soup dumplings on the side, Chun Kee’s homemade noodles are perked up with a generous portion of minced pork and lean char siew. It’s amazing what a stall under a shack can accomplish in such a rudimentary kitchen.
This place takes its claypots seriously. As you walk in, rows of pots burn on individual stoves while members of the restaurant’s staff tirelessly fan sparks of ember. The claypot rice here avoids the dreaded overcooked, unyielding texture that you sometimes get via less careful methods, and instead breaks easily into loose grains for a fluffy finish. Chicken, lap cheong and – if you wish – salted fish are standard mix-ins.
Before upscale Chinese restaurants made it big with their fancy push-cart dim sum experience, Tuck Cheong was already establishing a name for itself. Fluffy baos stuffed with hot char siew filling, braised chicken steamed rice and xiu mai bejewelled with large prawns are some of the dishes that definitely deserve a wider fanbase.
This charming kopitiam is famed for its pork noodles, but patrons unwilling to endure the lengthy preparation time for the popular dish could do worse than opt for the equally enticing char kuey teow. Topped with a fried egg, it’s a tad wetter and sweeter than your run-of-the-mill char kuey teow.
This charming kopitiam is just like any other until you peer into proprietor Madam Tang’s bubbling pot of curry. Red snapper heads are submerged in dangerously red gravy with tau fu pok, okra and tomatoes, all which are best eaten with piping hot white rice and a crushing of papadum.
This makeshift shack with zinc roof and limited plastic tables has been winning plaudits for its splendid prawn noodles since 1971. The rich, sweet and punchy broth is the main attraction here, with the tender chicken chunks being especially noteworthy.
Served with a special plum sauce, Sek Yuen’s roast duck boasts a greasy sheen with fatty bits peeking out from its crackly skin, and tender meat imbued with smoky firewood. If all duck restaurants in KL were to play the game of thrones, Sek Yuen would be sitting right at the top.
This fried chicken shack along Pudu’s nighttime wai sek kai knows a thing or two about avoiding wastage. Breast, thighs, wings, feet and, yes, even butt, are tossed in spiced flour, browned in hot oil and served with old-fashioned crinkle cut fries. The chicken yields light, crisp skin and a juicy middle.
If roasted duck rice is too passé for your liking, try the meatier, larger and more extravagantly priced roasted goose at this nondescript corner stall, which is just a two-minute stroll from Jalan Pasar. Each generous serving of the gamey roasted goose is placed over a bed of juicy bean sprouts.
A healthy repertoire of Chinese herbal soups isn’t the only thing attracting patrons to this unassuming street stall. In addition to delicacies like braised chicken feet with mushroom and slow-braised pork belly with preserved vegetables, Keong Kee also boasts a top-notch wild boar curry dish that packs a satisfying punch and boasts succulent meaty chunks.
Crunchy pasembur with shredded sengkuang and cucumber slathered in gooey peanut sauce – it’s not just a dish that moves the crowd along but also a staple beloved by the local community. Every morning, you’ll find customers debating over another controversial newspaper headline and old aunties confabbing with their mahjong kakis – all these while digging into MSS Maju’s pasembur. Who needs roti canai?
It’s difficult to wrangle the ‘best lam mee’ title from May King, a ’70s institution along Pudu’s Jalan Yew. Though it’s renovated to look more contemporary, the restaurant still whips up a wicked version of the noodles: yellow mee drenched in gloopy brown sauce, topped with fresh prawns, shredded chicken, bean sprouts and Chinese cabbage. The signature curry mee too is worth an order.
Lunchtime visits here are sometimes exasperating: The staff won’t take your order a minute before half past twelve, and your meat takes approximately 30 minutes to arrive. But these complaints fade away when you’re eventually presented with thick batons of salty pork. Armoured with crisp, golden crackling skin, this siu yuk boasts a perfect balance between layers of oily fat and lean meat.
Comfort food at its finest, this rustic Teochew restaurant’s hearty plain porridge with a plethora of side dishes is a late-night hit with city dwellers. We like ours paired with braised pig’s intestines, sweet fried anchovies and salted vegetables.
We’ve been to this stall as a kid, where the aroma of steamed chicken used to emanate from a wooden shack rather than the tiny shop it is now. The husband of this business couple mans the front, hacking whole chickens into delicious chunks while the wife adds the finishing touches – chopped coriander, parsley and a quick drizzle of soy sauce to bulk up the flavours. It’s simplicity, love and nostalgia on a plate.
Appropriately named, this cake is something of a signature at VCR. Crafted with love from Frost & Flourish’s Sophia Foo, Elvis flavours are prettily layered into a rich, creamy pat-on-the-back treat. It’s not a teacake by any measure; the peanut butter frosting and gooey banana is about as lush as it gets in the Pudu district.
This Pudu institution is home to our favourite chee cheong fun, which is drenched in a pleasingly piquant and velvety curry. Pair the silky smooth flat rice noodles with a side of yong tau foo and the signature barbecued pig’s intestines to understand why Yap Hup Kee is crowded every meal time.