Written by Candice Neo
Co-written by Junanto Xu
I’ve long associated Pudu with 2 words: nostalgia and chaos. Located near the city centre, you can expect busy streets and heavy traffic, especially on weekdays.
But this area is also home to legendary local food stalls that have been there for a really long time – the ongoing effort and dedication of local chefs who refuse to let their secret recipes die out, some passing on the trade to their children and grandchildren who do their best to live up to their predecessors’ high standards, and continue to serve a bevy of regular customers. These are people who might even know the chefs/owners (some even as friends) over the years, who keep returning to these old-time stalls, most of which still appear like they belong in the 80s and 90s.
I felt like I stepped back some 30 years ago on our Pudu food trail, and besides the very comforting tastes, sights and sounds, what I remembered mostly were the friendly chatter of some stallowner uncles and aunties, who personally whip up your steaming hot comforting meal, the smiles and laughter, and some really really good food at affordable prices, which you can’t find in malls and other so-called trendy areas.
Come, let’s go on a journey to those local restaurants, eateries and food stalls that have made a name for themselves among locals for years!
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1. One of the best fish head noodles in KL: Deng Ji Fish Head Noodles @ Little Eat Stall (等记鱼头米粉)
Truth be told, I’ve long associated fish noodle soup and fish head noodles as a “sick person’s food” because growing up, whenever I fell ill, my Mom would go to the local hawker centre and order up a healthy bowl of piping hot comforting goodness that’s usually a little bland, hence great when I was down with a cold and did not have much of an appetite.
So you can imagine, eating fish noodle soup usually brings back not-so-fond memories for me. But ever since we tried Deng Ji’s version, I could not stop thinking about it – yes I would even crave for it on normal days!
Here’s why: Their fish head noodle soup is actually very flavourful (unlike the usual bland ones you get elsewhere). The fish broth is cooked with ginger and hua diao wine (Chinese rice wine), which makes it very savoury and there’s no unpleasant fishy taste at all. They are also super generous with their very fresh fish slices.
No evaporated milk is added too, which is how I prefer my fish noodle soup in general (though some people like it with the milk). Their noodles are springy and if you order the thin bee hoon, it soaks up the broth so well. I’m missing it now as I’m writing this!
Having been in business for more than 10 years, they have always maintained their high standards – this is why so many of their regular customers return again and again despite having to wait up to more than an hour!
TripCanvas’ Tip: Their signature fish head noodle soup is only available on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays (they serve other dishes on other days such as pork noodle soup, porridge, Ipoh hor fun and more), and you might have to wait for more than one hour on weekends, so be sure to go early! We went on a weekday morning and we got our food in slightly less than half an hour.
This place is also unfortunately popular with mosquitoes, so if you are a mozzie magnet like me, you might want to cover yourself up a bit, bring along your insect repellent and be generous with the sprays! Takeaways are not allowed and you can only dine in. But trust me, it is worth it!2. Fresh fish and claypot crabs: New Kai Seng Seafood Restaurant (佳城海鲜饭店)
We know, it’s not easy to find delicious, fresh and affordable seafood around KL city centre, so this seafood restaurant in Pudu which has been around for more than 30 years is definitely one hidden gem!
We ordered their claypot crab in coconut milk and seafood soup platter which comes with fresh tilapia, sea prawns and clams in special soup, shared among five of us and boy, it was such a good meal!
The crabs are fresh and are super delicious when dipped in the spicy coconut milk – it tastes a little like curry, only without the fragrance of curry leaves, but because of this, it goes well with the crab. Don’t forget to order up some fried mantou (mini buns) to soak up the remaining gravy. The fish, prawns and clams were fresh and delicious too – definitely worth it!
3. Homecooked curry laksa with generous portions: Big Tree Curry Laksa (大树头咖喱面)
For more than 30 years, the stallowner aunty of this humble stall with no name has been serving up generous bowls of curry laksa under a huge raintree in Pudu.
Over time, regulars started to refer to it as “Big Tree Curry Laksa”, and that’s how this place got its informal name.
Around 10 minutes after we ordered, we were served their signature curry laksa, with a generous serving of chicken, cockles and tofu. The curry broth was thick – they definitely did not skimp on the ingredients (though we would have preferred if it were more flavourful), and their chicken was fresh and tender. If you want an extra oomph, eat it with their sambal!
Besides curry laksa, you can order noodles with clear soup too – yes, they only have these two items on their menu!
4. Legendary charcoal-roasted pork: Restoran Wong Mei Kee
Have you heard the older folks lament how siew yoke (which means “roasted pork” in Cantonese) nowadays can’t be compared to those they’ve eaten in the past? Those that were carefully and slowly roasted in charcoal which enhanced their flavours and texture?
You will be able to taste and experience exactly this at Wong Mei Kee, which still uses oil drums and charcoal to roast the pork slabs. The owner, Master Wong, has had more than 40 years of experience doing so, having opened his first roast shop in his 20s. Lots of work is involved here – the pork slabs are constantly transferred from one oil drum to the next, so that it is tender and crunchy at the end of the whole procedure.
The charred bits are scraped off, and browned lean meat on the surface is also removed (we have heard that it’s given to the needy), so customers only get the best part of the siew yoke – skin, fat and pink lean meat.
Fresh pork and high quality seasoning ingredients are also used. Master Wong even insists on using premium grade charcoal so that the most intense heat is delivered to his roast meat. As such, the siew yoke here isn’t cheap due to the quality and work involved, but you bet it’ll be worth it – people still queue for hours regularly!
This is one stall we did not manage to try, but watch this space for our verdict once we do! They sell char siew and roasted chicken too!
5. Authentic charcoal-cooked claypot chicken rice: Claypot Chicken Rice @ Kedai Kopi 168
Only one chef, the owner, personally cooks and tends to all the claypot chicken rice orders over the charcoal stove, and he has been doing so for more than 30 years. So, be prepared to wait for your food here.
Apparently, cooking rice over charcoal gives it a better aroma and taste, which is why people are willing to wait up to hours for this pot of chicken rice. I must add a disclaimer here: I am not a foodie, and I usually do not have the patience to wait for more than 30 minutes for food (even that is pushing it) especially if I’m hangry, but I would queue for this claypot chicken rice on non-hangry days.
We ordered two large servings which is good enough for 4-5 people (they only serve claypot chicken rice for mains, and if you want sides, you can get vegetables and soup) with salted fish, and they were delicious. Mix the rice well with the chicken and salted fish before digging in, to ensure that the layer of burnt rice at the bottom does not stick to the claypot. When everything is well-mixed, tuck in to your first mouthful of your hot, flavourful meal!
I love the claypot-burnt smell and taste of the rice. The chicken was done just nicely but what made the whole thing so amazing is that the aroma and tastes of the claypot-cooked chicken, sausages, soy sauces, burnt rice, and the salty tang of salted fish complement one another so well that we couldn’t stop shoving down mouthful after mouthful (even though we had been on a food trail the whole day!). We even ordered another serving to share after!
P.S. The seating area extends all the way to the opposite lane, especially on weekends and weekday dinners when it is more crowded, so do come early or risk waiting for more than an hour (which we did on our first time here!).
6. Legendary Hong Kong-style beef brisket: Yung Kee Beef Noodles (庸记牛腩)
If you enjoy good quality beef, you must not miss this legendary restaurant specialising in beef brisket and premium beef cuts.
Founded by superstar chef Albert, a Malaysian who picked up his trade in Hong Kong and honed his skills there for 17 years before returning to KL, Yung Kee has maintained its high standards and quality throughout the years (it has relocated from Kwai Hup Coffee Shop since late 2017) at his strict insistence on delivering no less than excellence to his customers, and to educate the KL public on HK-style beef brisket.
I must admit that I’m generally not a beef lover, but one of our teammates is a huge fan of beef, and she had nothing but words of praise for our bowl of brisket, honeycomb tripe (which was gelatinous and chewy), stomach and tendons. The herbal soup was rich and flavourful, done well to cater to the local tastebuds (HK-style brisket usually comes with clear soup).
Albert explained that no other eatery in KL has such niche and speciality, as they are very precise on which parts of the brisket are the best, with certain cuts and tendons offering the most gelatinous and collagen-rich portions, and these are not easy to find – a niche that he had honed in Hong Kong.
So if you want a taste of HK-style beef cuts, definitely check out Yung Kee!
7. Decades-old traditional recipes for crispy roast duck: Sek Yuen Restoran Jalan Pudu
Stepping into Sek Yuen is like stepping into 50s-70s KL, with old red lanterns swaying from the ceiling and black-and-white photos perched on old-school canteen windows. With 70 years of history, Sek Yuen was founded by three brothers in the 1950s after a decade of selling wantan mee on a mobile food stall.
From selling dim sum to holding Chinese wedding banquets (due to the lack of international hotels in those years) in its early days, Sek Yuen is now well known for its decades-old traditional Cantonese recipes cooked over wood-fired stoves (which is said to add to the aroma and flavour of the food).
What not to miss here is their signature roast duck (also known as “pi pa duck”), a very popular dish that locals have been flocking here over the years for. You would see this duck at almost every table, during both lunch and dinner!
The skin is crispy, while the duck flesh is juicy, flavourful, and well-marinated. On some days, it might be a bit dry, but it’s very savoury when paired with their special sauce, which is both tangy and sweet and served with the duck. I must confess that I’m not a huge fan of duck in general but I would order this whenever I’m here!
Hawker centre with so much affordable local food!
“What should we eat?” is always the dreaded question of the day, repeated for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you like me face this #firstworldproblem on a near-daily basis, you need to head to ICC Pudu, where there’s so many varieties of local food!
8. Comforting ginger wine noodles: Mee Halia 姜酒米
My personal favourite is the ginger wine noodles from a stall named Mee Halia 姜酒米 (which means the same thing in Bahasa Melayu and Chinese) that has been in business for more than 30 years. My noodles soup was served steaming hot, topped with a generous serving of sliced ginger, fried eggs and fresh prawns. The noodles were thin and soaked up the rich wine soup very well. Super comforting if you are having it for breakfast!
9. Yong Tau Foo crossed with Chee Cheong Fun: Ah Fook Chee Cheong Fun 阿福猪肠粉
From another stall, I also ordered a “yong tau foo cheong fun”, which is indeed what you are thinking of – a cross between yong tau foo (Hakka Chinese cuisine consisting of tofu and vegetables filled with ground meat mixture or fish paste) and chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll, which is commonly considered as a variety of dim sum)! You get to select your fresh yong tau foo pieces (pick from tofu to vegetables to mushrooms) and they will pair it with a roll of chee cheong fun, before drenching it in curry and sweet sauces!
Usually in KL or Singapore, you can find both yong tau foo and chee cheong fun separately, but this creative combination actually tasted pretty good! Their chee cheong fun is soft and well-paired with the savoury yong tau foo!
10. Curry wantan noodles (yes with char siew and everything!): Feng Yang Wantan Noodles (豐楊云吞面)
We are all familiar with the regular wantan noodles, but how about a curry version? Yes, we mean instead of having the dry version or clear soup with your dumplings, noodles and char siew, it’s served in curry instead! The curry is thick and flavourful, so as you eat it together with all the ingredients, every mouthful is a huge burst of flavour!
11. Baking charcoal egg tarts for 120 years: Bunn Choon (品泉)
When a flourishing food stall has been baking and selling nothing but egg tarts for 120 years, you know they must have done a jolly good job. And they definitely did not disappoint – the soft egg filling is flavourful, while the crispy layers of charcoal bamboo crust has a lingering smoky aroma. A must for all egg tart fans!
12. Not your regular chicken bun: Chinese yellow rice wine chicken bun 黄酒煎鸡包
I’ve never really been impressed by chicken buns, but this one has its chicken, mushroom and turnip filling richly soaked in Chinese yellow rice wine, so it’s a lovely burst of savoury goodness when you bite into the soft bun! What’s more, their buns and ingredients are freshly made every day on the spot!
13. Fried Chinese rice cake with sweet potato and yam: IMBI Kueh Bakul
Finish your meal off with this delicious snack (also one of my faves!) – fried rice cake! The triple-layered rice cake (also known as triple kueh bakul) is their signature, lined with layers of not just sticky rice cake but yam and sweet potato too!
It’s crispy on the outside, soft, sweet and gooey on the inside as you bite into it freshly hot! If like me you love the taste and texture of sticky rice cake in general, you’ll find this addictive! Don’t say you haven’t been warned! 😉
14. Sesame paste, peanut paste and other traditional desserts: Restoran Ruby (芝麻糊大王)
I know most of us love our Korean bingsu, ice-cream, fancy Instagrammable cakes and trendy desserts – I sure do, but sometimes I miss those days when my Mom would buy back a warm bowl of sweet sesame paste after lunch when I came home from school.
You can find that old-school nostalgia at Restoran Ruby, where your sesame, peanuts, almonds and walnuts are freshly grounded every day in a traditional stone grinder mill, with a decades-old recipe that has been passed down for five generations.
This place has an odd clutter of traditional items hung and scattered around – old lanterns, Chinese paintings, lion dance head, old photographs, Chinese sayings emphasizing on the importance of filial piety to one’s parents, and even a portrait of Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. Perhaps a glimpse of the founders’ beliefs and values which they had hoped to pass down to future generations?
Their traditional desserts, to our delight, came with a creative spin. We ordered Cha Wu (peanut mixed with black sesame paste) which came in the design of an adorable bear, Yin Yong Black Sesame (almond milk mixed with black sesame paste) and a bowl of Wolfberries Steamed Egg Custard. I loved both their Cha Wu and Yin Yong – very thick, smooth, not overly sweet, and served with the delicious aroma of fresh peanut, sesame and almond pastes. Perfect for a midday after-lunch treat!
And you can be sure Restoran Ruby ensures that their desserts are always up to par and of good quality. They even put up a sign in Chinese that read “If our desserts are not good, you will not be charged!”
Where to stay near Pudu
Wondering where to stay in the heart of KL’s city centre, close to Pudu where you can go on your food hunt? We’ve stayed at Platinum Suites by Victoria Home which boasts a gorgeous view of KLCC and an excellent location, just 15 minutes’ drive from Pudu! Check out our review below:
Swim to infinity with views of the iconic twin towers and KL Tower – Platinum Suites by Victoria Home
If your priority when visiting Kuala Lumpur is to feast your eyes on the beautiful skyline of the city, it’s mandatory for you to consider a stay at Platinum Suites by Victoria Home.
Imagine walking into a lavish room, welcomed by a floor-to-ceiling window that overlooks the stunning Petronas Twin Towers that stand proudly among uncountable skyscrapers. Now moving on to your bedroom, the view does not disappoint either as you get to take in the panoramas right from your bed! Lucky are my friends who stayed in the master bedroom but I was equally happy to opt for the smaller bedroom option which was extra cozy. We stayed at their Platinum 2 Bedroom Apartment with City View and did not regret!
Most of the days we spent at Platinum Suites began at sunrise when we headed down to the infinity pool to gaze at the ball of fire gently rising right in between the Twin Towers – what a blessing! We were there as early as 7am and the crowd was already getting overwhelming but hear us, early morning is your best bet if you too want to get that picture for the gram! (Our view of the Twin Towers was sadly partially obstructed by a crane when we were there, so do check with Victoria Home about the view before you book!)
At night, the scene is also magical as you can look out to the sparkling city lights with both the Twin Towers and KL Tower giving out their best light show!
With so much to see and do around, we explored the best of Kuala Lumpur before getting back to our comfortable apartment and enjoying the property’s facilities. I also dreamt of having my family with me – what an ideal stay for a reunion, plus they also provide extra mattresses and pillows for bigger groups!
From here, you can easily walk to the nearby train stations, malls and a 24-hour local eatery – Pelita Nasi Kandar. You’ll also find restaurants within the Platinum Suites building or you can walk to the nearby Mercu Summer Suites for a 24-hour convenience store!
KL city centre and Pudu don’t only just have commercialised restaurants and malls! The real food legends are here, and have been here for decades, so tag all your foodie buddies now and make plans!