Thursday, 27 November 2008

Chinatown aka Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur

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This place brings back memories going back to my childhood days in the 70s. However, it was only in the 80s that Petaling Street started becoming this vibrant tourist trap that it is today. Back in the old days, it was just full of old shops with few stalls selling food and drinks and most people would not have heard of the the fake designer brands that they sell here today.

It has been seven years since I have been to this place, and during that time, they have built a roof over the street, good for avoiding the extreme heat of the midday sun, but also the monsoon rain, both of which I experienced in abundance during my two week stay here.

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Getting off the LRT at Pasar Seni station, it was only a short 5 minute walk to Petaling Street. On our way there, I noticed that not much have changed, over the last few decades. The shop owners may be different, but the buildings and roads are still the same. Klang bus station is still the same, apart from that the imposing Toshiba neon sign has gone.

Along the way, we passed a Hindu, and then a Chinese temple. These two buildings have always been there, but I never really appreicated them until I moved away from Malaysia. The Hindu temple, especially was such an elaborately crafted structure, it would not look out of place in the holiest of shrines in India.

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Two minutes later, we were at the Chinese temple ... you could have easily mistaken this photo as having been taken in China or Hong Kong, if not for the Malaysia flag next to it. No other place does the term "Truly Asia" holds more true!

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Shortly, around the corner, we reached Petaling Street. In terms of traders, it has not changed much in the last 20 years. It is basically a trading ground for modern day pirates, ie, people who infringe copyrights rather that those with a eyepatches and hooked hands! Apart from food and souvenirs, it was actually DIFFICULT to find any stall that did not sell fake goods there. You would find fake clothes, watches, handbags, shoes, DVDs, CDs, games, sunglasses, toys and more there. In fact, if it is possible to fake it, they will sell it! Look at some of the merchandise we .. er..ahem.. "encountered". Some were very good fakes too!

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One thing that struck me was that the traders along the street has changed a lot since my last visit. Although it is called Chinatown, Chinese traders were noticeably the minority today. At one stall, I encountered a trader who neither spoke Malay nor Chinese. Eventually, I haggled over the item in my best possible English with a Malaysian accent!

After an hour of browsing and haggling, my 8 year old somehow managed to spot a toy shop hidden behind the sea of stalls, and wanted to have a look inside. Once inside, it struck me that I have actually been here before .... over 30 years ago! My grandfather used to occassionally take me to a restaurant on Petaling street, before all these stalls existed, and after every meal, he would take me to the toy shop next door to buy me a small toy. This was the same shop, still standing after all these years! When we came out, I looked next door and the restaurant was still there! It was none other than the long established Yook Woo Hin. It must be about 80 years old now, and looking little different from what I remember of it, apart from the marble tables which have been replaced by stainless steel ones. However, they had no board outside bearing their name at all.

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As we were hungry and thirsty by now, we decided to settle down for lunch at this famous landmark for a nostalgic meal at No. 100, Jalan Petaling.

Mid autumn had just passed a few weeks ago, so we did not get a chance to taste their famous mooncakes. Still, there were other things on we could try... we were quite late for Dim Sum by now, but they had some leftover.

This pair of fishballs were ok. Nice but not outstanding.

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This lor mai kai was very nice. It did not have any unusual ingredients, but somehow it all worked well together. I would have liked the rice to be less mushy, but maybe it was because it had been steaming in the cabinet for many hours. I would imagine that the texture would have been a little firmer if I had come here 4 hours earlier.

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I had mixed feelings about this wat tan hor. The gravy and ingredients were absolutely delicious and cooked to perfection. However, the ho fun was a litle brittle and not smooth. I suspect that it had been fried a lot earlier and been left lying in the kitchen.

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When eating in Yook Woo Hin, you cannot not have a dish of Char Siu, something that it is famous for. Char Siu and this restaurant seem to go hand in hand ... just google it and you will see! This plate must have cost around rm16 - 18... I was not disappointed, but neither was I overwhelmed. The marinade was fine and so were the cuts of pork (half lean half fat) I had. It was also crispy at the right places. However, it had a distinct lack of glaze, and the surface felt a bit dry. Or maybe the glaze had dried up after the meat have been left in the kitchen too long.

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The restaurant was almost empty at Friday lunchtime, unlike what I remembered it to be, when it was bustling with mainly gossipping old men, back in the 70s and 80s. Well, maybe they have all passed away now. So with the slow turnover of food, it might explain why these dishes did not have the freshly cooked feel to them. Still I was glad I got a chance to visit this restaurant again and maybe one day my son will take his offspring there introduce this restaurant to the next generation. I just hope that their standards do not slip further.

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Nic (KHKL) said...

for some unknown reasons, i knew you were gonna do Yoke Woo Hin when i read the title of your post!haha!

yeah, it was the IN thing back then. having frequent KL almost every weekend, i myself have not been visiting this restaurant. perhaps the time is now! ;)

Tummythoz said...

Ever since the traders are no more of the heavily dyed Chinese, I've not gone to shop there. =,(

ling239 said...

the wat-tan-hor looks good leh... too bad it din taste up to ur expectation...

backstreetgluttons said...

You probably missed the 2 popping petaling street icons :

softest Chee Cheong Fun with almost nothing on except sesame seeds + gravy, and the piping hot gluey porridge next table !

babe_kl said...

supporting BSG... and also the curry and assam laksa plus yong tau foo at Madras Lane yumyum

Hazza said...

YWH was indeed an icon years ago. It is so anonymous now, you would not even notice it unless you went specifically to look for it.

Heavily dyed Chinese? You mean those with peroxide hair, looking like "fei chai" types?

I think it would taste better if there had been more customers at the time buying it.

I searched your blog to see what you are on about and I have made not for my next visit ;)

I dont know the name of the street, but as long as its not that dark ghetto looking through passage near Chinatown, I am willing to go and have a try! Next visit only 8 months away, thanks to Air Asia!

wmw said...

Ah...that's what you had there :o)

Maya said...

I stopped by there when I was home visiting my family. Lots have changed - more orderly and cleaner.

Keats The Sunshine Girl said...

We had visitors from the UK recently and they loved the fakes in watches and clothes. Fully statisfied customers!

Anonymous said...

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