entrees, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Malaysia, mysterious ingredients, out and about, restaurants, road trippin', travel

Digestive Default

04.09.10 | 5 Comments

One of the pleasures of traveling is returning to a place for a second time. The Local Way is no longer a grand mystery, and the place is likely not yet so familiar that The Local Way becomes the norm. So stepping off the plane in Kuala Lumpur, I felt just a little bit superior, knowing exactly how to go from customs to the bus counter to the bus into the city instead of wondering how to pay for a cab (inside at a counter).


On this trip, I happened to have three Singaporean guides who had eaten in Malaysia so many times they were part Malaysian by digestive default. As seasoned as I felt, I was still the equivalent of a local infant, constantly asking what we were eating and what exactly was that?

Fearless leader and devoted organizer of the trip was my friend Jason from Beijing, one of five founding members of the 肥猪 Feizhu Fat Pig Club (largely considered the group lightweight but shhhh I didn’t tell you):

z_jason qingtuan

He’s also a good photographer and took some of the pictures in this post. Since I believe in giving credit where it’s due, I’ll denote the pictures that were, sadly, not taken by me with a little (jf) below the picture.

This James Dean bad boy is Jason’s good friend and champion eater Clinton, who has a foot so leaden it could make enough bullets for both World Wars put together:

z_clinton smokes

Despite my fear of flying, traveling in his car seemed far more likely to end in a fiery crash than an airborne tube.

And this dashing lad is Edward, genial friend to Clinton and Jason and unanimously voted the most mature (Clinton is 4, Jason is 5, Edward turned 9 on the trip) of the males. And the males were the ones voting:


On Thursday, we started our first day of eating with a trip to KLCC (the city center), which was just across the way from our hotel. We made our way to a food court in the mall and settled on a place that sold roti canai. z_bfast vegs

I enjoyed it, as I tend to enjoy carb-y vittles, but the lads all declared it a sad excuse for roti canai. According to Clinton, there was “no flavor, no texture,” and it was gummy and blah. Roti canai is routinely served with small saucers of curry, and reviews of the curry were no better. Over the following days I was educated in the ways of roti, and I retrospectively agree.

z_bfast roti

We also had these fragile shells stuffed with…something curried and garnished with cilantro.

z_bfast crunchy cups

And some samosas:

z_bfast samosas

Though Clinton had also eaten (mediocre) biryani, he promptly made a beeline for the Godiva store to get a chocolate milkshake. Dear Plate of Wander readers, I have finally met someone who can eat more than I! They do exist!

We didn’t have time to linger in KL—plans had been laid for us to drive down to the seaside city of Malacca/Melaka for two nights. The drive from KL to Melaka takes normal people 3 hours. We made it in just under two—that is how fast Clinton drives. We clocked him going *censored* miles per hour a few times.

The rooms at our seaside hotel, the Everly, were acceptable, but the view was wonderful:

z_hotel view2

z_hotel view1

z_hotel view ellis reflection

z_hotel pool

Since it had been a whopping three or so hours since breakfast, it was time to head promptly out for lunch. We ended up at a Nyonya restaurant. Nyonya are a Sino-indiginous subgroup of Peranakan, who are descended from Chinese/Malay Hokkien. I find that a little confusing too, but what you really need to know is that their food is fabulous.


We started off with some shrimp chips:

z_lunch shrimp chips

And moved to some spicy, saucy chicken, which was my favorite:

z_lunch chicken

I deemed this crunchy version of calamari Squid Cheerios, a name that stuck with the lads:

z_lunch squid cheerios2JPG

Spicy okra, since I insisted we have some kind of vegetable:

z_j lunch okra(jf)

Tamarind fish:

z_j lunch tamarind fish(jf)

And omelet with cincalok (chin-cha-lo), a very salty condiment made of miniscule fermented shrimp that adds a salty, oceanic taste to food.

z_lunch omelet

I think there were one or two other dishes that I don’t have pictures of, but this was one of our lighter meals.

z_j ellis squid(jf)

z_drying squid

After a nice Chinese body massage to aid in the digestion, we went to a nearby hotel bar for a post-lunch pre-dinner mojito for me, beer for the lads.


z_bar beer

There was also a selection of cigars, in which Eddie and Clinton indulged.

z_bar cigar light

Upon learning I had never smoked anything, Clinton handed over his cigar for me to take a puff. I figured, what the hell, it was my birthday, I might as well try something new that I never intend to try again.

z_j ellis cigar (jf)

It tasted like mulch.

Our post-drink intention was to walk around to burn a few calories for dinner. That plan, however, took a turn when we walked through a shopping complex filled with food stalls. First we stopped at a waffle place, where we ordered not just waffles, but also these little cake-y lumps filled with coconut and palm sugar:

z_coco bites1

And some corn with salt and butter.

z_j ellis clinton corn (jf)

Clinton enjoys his waffle.

z_clinton waffle

I thought the waffles were indulgent enough, but then we stopped at a cendol stand.


Cendol (chen-dul) is a shaved ice dessert consisting of coconut milk, palm sugar, and, apparently, green beans.

z_cendol mixedJPG

This stuff is amazing—sweet and milky, but it tastes light enough that despite my fullness, it didn’t seem as though I was adding any weight in my stomach. Next to us was a roti place, which Eddie informed us had really good coffee buns. I blinked and suddenly this happened:

z_coffee bun

A cream-filled pastry with a crispy crust that smelled but didn’t taste of coffee.

It was my birthday. Calories didn’t count!

We then walked about .3 miles, which, on the Clinton scale, burned about 5,000 calories. The Clinton Calorie™ is a beautiful thing! So we headed to some food stalls for dinner. Normal people may have taken it easy, or even skipped dinner all together, but, well, we aren’t normal.

Noodle soup, I think curry laksa? We ate so much stuff I forgot a lot of names.

z_dinner noodle soup

Coconut milk-y and only so-so in the world of laksas (?).

Some prawn noodle soup:

z_dinner prawn mee

Something saucy stir-fried with a lot of pineapple and sprinkled in peanuts:

z_dinner pineapple something

Shrimp paste wrapped in rainbows:

z_dinner shrimp rolls

Kway teow, stir-fried flat rice noodles. Generally one of my favorite dishes:

z_dinner kwey teow

And of course, some stingray:

z_dinner stingray

Not as good as the stingray I had in Singapore. There was also a squid dish, but the picture didn’t come out.

By then we all felt pretty taxidermied, so we headed back to the hotel to hibernate. Nothing says Happy 24th Birthday like a pound of food for every year alive in the course of one day. I can’t wait to turn 50.

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