Restaurants & Bars

Kuala Lumpur - Old Chinatown Eats

klyeoh | May 1, 201107:09 AM     34

Visited a couple of old eats in KL's bustling Chinatown or, as it's commonly called in Cantonese (the lingua franca of KL's Chinese populace) "Chee Cheung Kai" (茨廠街) today.

First stop was Kim Lian Kee, more than a century old, and which claimed to have invented the famous KL-style black-colored Hokkien fried noodles. Its version is still the best I'd tried in the short time (2 months plus) I'd been in KL thus far: the Hokkien noodles were fat & yielding, blanketed in the trademark dark soysauce and, I suspect, coated with flavorsome lard. It's studded with shrimps (peeled but tails-on), thin slivers of squid, pork, cabbage and precious gems of sinful, golden-fried lardons which provided delightful crunchy bursts of deliciousness when bitten into. Kim Lian Kee's rather liquidy and less-than-spicy sambal belacan (chilli dip) was provided in little jars on every table - less than stellar, but provided a nice stab of spiciness to the otherwise overly rich noodles. One can order Chinese tea to accompany the Hokkien fried noodles, but I chose a cold, soothing papaya-milk drink instead. Perfect :-)

Second stop was the tiny, derelict-looking but very famous Koon Kee wanton noodles shop, set back from the bustling street & partially obscured by stalls selling Chinese pancakes & biscuits. Koon Kee was started in 1947 by Mdm Lee Kim Kee who, together with her husband, made a long, painful trek from her village in Guangdong all the way to the port of Guangzhou in the aftermath of WWII. They sailed to KL, set up a small wanton noodles business in the middle of KL's Chinatown and, as they say, the rest is history. Koon Kee produces one of the springiest, tastiest wanton noodles in KL, which is probably where one can find the best wanton noodles in South-east Asia. Koon Kee serves wanton noodles with either delicious roast char-siu, tasty chicken feet braised with Chinese shiitake mushrooms, or with shredded poached chicken. Their wantons and the larger shui-gow dumplings are also very popular.

This evening, I chose the kai-see (shredded chicken) wanton noodles, served "dry" (kon-low) where in KL meant it's dressed in dark-soy, light-soy, chicken/pork fat, the faintest trace of sesame oil, pepper & other seasonings. Decades of experience (the current cooks are Mdm Lee's children & grandchildren, now middle-aged themselves) meant the noodles' flavors were perfectly balanced and the noodles' texture were perfect. I had two little wanton dumplings in a clear, surprisingly peppery consomme - the wantons were perfect, filled with flavorful minced pork (as opposed to prawn ones you'd get in HK-style wantons). The shredded chicken were moist and utterly delicious. The perfect meal, even amidst a rather intimidating dilapidated-looking dining area (I suspect the "derelict" image was kept on purpose - as business was bustling!).


Kim Lian Kee
49-51 Petaling Street
Tel: 03-20324984
Operating hours: 5.30pm to 4am daily

Koon Kee
Jalan Hang Lekir (off Petaling Street)
Operating hours: 10am to 10pm daily
No telephone numbers

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