Saturday, July 24, 2010

Alor let down

Two of our daughter's net pals were in town. One was from Perth and the other Manila. They specifically asked to be brought to Jalan Alor to experience the makan there, which they had read so much about. It was just as well, for it had been donkey years since I last ate in Jalan Alor. Armed with my camera, we picked the 2 girls from their hotel and arrived at Bukit Bintang early in the evening.

Jalan Alor sure has changed. I remembered the place as having some makan shops and stalls, which were not so many. Now they are beyond recognition. The number of eateries have mushroomed. The place seems a lot more alive. The makan places are gaily decorated with visuals of the foods they offer.

We walked the length of the short street. It was festive but rather disorderly. We had to tread through parked and moving vehicles, food stalls, tables and chairs, and hordes of waiters with menus in hand trying to entice us.

We finally found a decent place, outside a small hotel. It was open air dining which suited us very fine. We were attended to by a foreign waiter (expected) who took our orders for anything and everything. What he did not have, he would summon via his phone from another stall. Our guests were visibly excited about the meal. But we were in for a major disappointment.

We asked for a plate of fried noodles - koay teow to be specific. This was what we got. I do not know if it was char koay teow Penang style or fried noodles Hokkein style. There was see hum (cockles 鲜蚶), but no eggs. It was mushy and did not taste quite good.

The hor chien (oyster omelete - 蚵煎) was ridiculous. I have never seen hor chien prepared this way. It was kind of flour and egg fried into pancakes, with some oyster smacked on it. It was weird both in taste and appearance. Totally unacceptable.

The rojak was a disgrace. It was just some pieces of cucumber, pineapple, mangkuang (jicama), and sour mango mixed in a tasteless liquidly sauce. Unimaginative.

The sotong kangkong was OK. Not bad. The sauce was good and there was lots of grounded peanuts.

The satay looked odd. The chicken was reddish. I do not know what marinade they used, but they looked like they had been dyed. I had one stick, and that was enough. It was not good for a second.

The kung pao (宫保) frog legs was perhaps the best dish of the evening. The meat was so very succulent and tender. The sauce was good. I have not had frogs for a long time and it really tasted very good.

The barbecued chicken wings quite ordinary. I found it a bit too sweet and didn't quite like it.

The small pot of bak kut teh was also ordinary. The soup had no oomph. But I guess it had a lot to do with expectations. Our last BKT experience was in Klang. I guess we cannot have it the same. Still I think it could be much better.

Finally we had a plate of KL Hokkein mee (福建面). What street dining is KL is complete without the famous fat noodles? It did not disappoint us. The noodles was good. There was lots of chu yaw char (猪油渣). The taste was so typically KL. I enjoyed it.

Dessert was ABC (air batu campuk) which was not too bad. It was a great heap of shaved ice with the normal red beans, cendol, jelly, peanuts, etc....

And leng chi kang (清补凉) which was just ordinary.

All in all, the meal was a let down. Jalan Alor is like the mecca of Malaysian street foods for visiting tourists. There are so much hype in the Internet and tourism promos about the goodness of Jalan Alor foods. Perhaps we selected the wrong shop. Except for 1 or 2 dishes, what we ate that evening certainly did not reflect what the country has to offer. From our experience, Jalan Alor is definitely not the typical Malaysian street food.

But there is a saving grace. Located between Jalan Alor and Jalan Bukit Bintang, on Lorong Bukit Bintang, is a yew char kueh (油炸鬼) stall. The stall does a roaring business on freshly fried YCK, hum chim peang (咸煎饼) and other associated delicacies.

The YCK was awesome. It was crispy and tasted so very good. One of the best YCK I have savored. The next time you are in Bukit Bintang or Jalan Alor, I would highly recommend that you grab a couple of them

They had perhaps made our drive to and from Jalan Alor a little more worthwhile.

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