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Rumah Limas
Rumah Limas

Best bits of KL: Jalan Raja Muda Musa in Kampung Baru

Explore the last Malay village in the city before gentrification takes over

Written by
Wai Yeng Kong
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The construct of a modern city is keeping us safely apart – we’d rather hole up in our comfy condos (read: fancy cages) than speak to our neighbours. But the residents of Jalan Raja Muda Musa cannot seem to stand awkward silence. If you spend enough time lounging at a warung, a friendly face is bound to come up to you and say, ‘ah moi, buat ape?’. Kampung Baru – the last Malay village in the city – is viscous with history, but this street is something else – it’s a verdant land of unmapped eateries, a territory that’s coming to terms with its heritage (authentic Malay wooden houses on stilts) and vague future (Kampung Baru is set to undergo a RM43bil facelift in the next 20 years with hotels, offices and residential towers). It’s a developer’s dream.

Warung owners on Jalan Raja Muda Musa are practically neighbours who know each other’s kids, plants and number of cats. The atmosphere at these family-owned eateries seem almost cloistered and exclusive, like you’re crashing someone’s kenduri, but the owners immediately let their guard down when you show interest in their lives, their culture, their steadfast belief in what makes a nasi biryani Johor authentic. We owe our satisfied tummies to these unsung heroes, whose primary concern could very well just be feeding their families through their humble trade.

The recent sighting of new shops and vaping outlets does give off a terrible undertow of loss that a world built on a vigorous Malay identity is slowing chipping away. The shiny towers in the background, multiplying year after year, dramatically illustrate a portentous outcome: A steamrolled gentrification. So go, explore every quirk and character of this neighbourhood by foot before the iced lattes take over.

Drink this

Drink this

Mas Merah’s mangga susu is perfect for when lassi fatigue kicks in. It’s less cloying than the Indian restaurant staple but fruity enough to demand seconds. If you’re not wild over mangoes, there are nangka, banana, apple, kiwi and (gasp!) watermelon with milk too.
Eat this

Eat this

You may have to squeeze between the tenacious crowd at Chunburi for their nasi dagang, but it’s hard to resent customers for lingering over their overwhelming spread of lauk. If you’re ever in doubt of which dish to take, grab a seat and munch on some kuihs from the stall outside first.

Nasi Briyani Gam An-Nur dishes up a confident version of nasi biryani Johor and their hometown pride, biryani gam. The rice of a biryani gam is cooked together with one’s choice of meat instead of separately like biryani rice. If you order mutton during your first visit, give yourself a pat at the back.

Bag up some decent putu buluh at Restoran Gerak Dua Puluh Satu food court. When we say they’re bursting with gula Melaka, we really mean get your tissues ready.
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Do this

Do this

Malay weddings are looming? Noor Arfa (14 Jalan Raja Muda Musa. 03 2602 0700) designs bespoke batik and songket outfits to help your case. Also, batik is a year-round investment for festivities and special occasions.

The former Saturday night market site, which used to be KL’s oldest Malay trading hub in the ’30s, is brimming with unnamed stalls selling shoes, songkok and household paraphernalia. It’s hard to point out a single shop that’s good but these are real artisans who have served generations of the Kampung Baru community.
If you only do one thing...

If you only do one thing...

Look out for the colonial Malay houses, particularly Rumah Limas – a traditional home constructed in 1931 but rebuilt in 1949 after the Second World War. Parts of the house were renovated but the unique roof plan and architectural style with a stone pillared ground floor still remain.

After Jalan Raja Muda Musa, visit Jalan Scott

Best bits of KL: Jalan Scott in Brickfields
  • Things to do

Gracing Brickfields' ornate façade are roaring lanes of cars, lorries and motorcycles, with narrow sidewalks claimed by flower stalls peddling garlands, temple offerings, colourful sarees and pigeons.

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