Malaysian Monday 42: A Hawker Centre experience

Monday, July 12, 2010

During our recent visit to Malaysia, we had dinner at the local hawker centre (an open air food court) called Asia Cafe (SS15/8,  Subang Jaya, Malaysia). These centres house an enormous variety of stalls, selling everything from satay to steak. It’s a good option when eating out in a group, as everyone can order whatever they feel like. Plus, you get to sample each other’s orders. Ok, I made everyone let me sample their orders. All in the name of research mind you ;P

 (Please excuse the photos, it was dark!)

Dining out at one of these centres is not for the faint hearted. They are usually crowded and noisy, and you’re exposed to the elements. Also, our table happened to be next to the grilled fish stall, so every 10 minutes or so, a spicy cloud would waft over our table sending everyone into coughing and sneezing fits (if you’ve ever smelt chilli being fried, you’ll understand what I mean). And don’t even think about needing to use the restrooms. Just don’t.

 The grilled fish stall

BUT, the food is what we’d come for, and we were not disappointed. There is a specific system in place when ordering – first work out what your table number is (a plaque is glued to each table), then walk off to your preferred stall and place your order, mentioning the table number. Return to your table, and within a few minutes someone will deliver your food, COD.

Because we were dining with Mummy and Daddy Skewer, they insisted on paying for all our orders, so I cannot tell you what each individual dish cost (thank you parental units!!). However, hawker centre prices are usually very affordable, and most dishes cost a few ringgit or so (roughly between $1-$3 USD).

Here are some of the dishes we ate:

This is the reason I lobby for a visit to Asia Café whenever we visit the folks. Chilli crab + fried mantou (a deep fried steamed bun) = MMMMM!! – no further explanation required.

O-cien (Oyster omelette). This one was just ok, not fantastic, but since I only get a chance to eat this every couple of years, I’m not being too choosy.

Satay.Two kinds here, chicken and beef. They didn’t look like much but were so tasty we ended up ordering more.

Claypot chicken rice. Mr. Kitchen Hand’s choice, he pronounced it delicious. The best part of this dish is the crusty rice at the bottom of the claypot, it’s absorbed all the sauce and you get a hit of chewy, tasty goodness.

Xiao long bao (Small dragon bun/ soup filled dumplings). It’s a bit tricky to eat because you need to pop the whole thing into your mouth otherwise you could end up wearing the soupy goodness. I haven’t really tried that many versions of this dumpling, so I can’t really rate them, but according to baby brother, these were quite good.

We also ordered a few other dishes but it got too dark to photograph properly. One of my favourites was the grilled stingray (ikan pari bakar). Ikan bakar or grilled fish is something I really miss. Whole fish are smothered in a spicy sambal and wrapped in banana leaves and foil, then grilled over hot coals. The resulting dish has a beautiful smoky flavour that is hard to replicate in a home kitchen (although I’ve had minor success using the barbecue).

We washed down our meals with a selection of fruit juices and a cold beer or two.

And to finish off, we had fresh tropical fruit for dessert.

If you’d like to join me for a Malaysian Monday post, we’ve launched Muhibbah Malaysian Monday, click here, or the badge on the sidebar, to find out how to participate. Don’t forget to include a link back to either 3 Hungry Tummies or my blog (Test with Skewer) when you do your Malaysian Monday post.

Have a great start to the week!


chocolatesuze said...

HAHA tits bits oh lol that just made my day! that and the chilli crab mmm

shaz said...

He he chocolatesuze, that is actually a new sign. A few years back, the sign said Tit-Bits which I know is the right word but I still found funny (oh I am SO mature)

3 hungry tummies said...

I want everything on the table Shaz especially the o chien!

Barbara said...

The dumplings look good, Shaz, but I wonder if the crowds, the smells wafting over my table and the bathroom situation might put me off just a tad.

Juliana said...

Oh! Everything looks so the idea of trying it all :-) The deep fried steam bread are so good...

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

I missed all the hawker food from Malaysia. Glad u had a wonderful time and Los of makan!

MaryMoh said...

Beautiful post about Malaysia. I miss all those hawker centres and night markets.

shaz said...

3 hungry tummies - ha ha, bet you can cook all these with your eyes closed!

Barbara - yes it does take some getting used to, but the food is SO tasty.

Juliana - my favourite too, especially dipped in the crab sauce

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) - definitely lots of makan, maybe even too much makan :)

MaryMoh - because of time constraints, we missed out on going to a night market :( Definitely going to one the next time we go for a visit.