[Kuala Lumpur] Malaysian hawker food from Malaysia Boleh!, Four Seasons Place.

Singapore-owned Malaysia Boleh! (its name is in Malay-speak meaning “Malaysia Can!”) first opened in Jurong Point in Singapore back in late-2016, and quickly became the most popular spot in Singapore for Malaysian hawker food. Singaporeans will flock there for their Malaysian hawker food fix, instead of having to drive or fly to Malaysia.

Despite common/shared origins, Malaysia and Singapore’s hawker cultures have evolved separately through the decades and now have very distinct differences. In fact, even within Malaysia itself, similar-named hawker dishes can be pretty different, depending on which city or state your are in. For example, Penang’s Hokkien mee looks like this, i.e. a mix of yellow Hokkien noodles and thin beehoon rice noodles in an intense pork-prawn broth, spiked with chilli paste, and served topped with boiled shrimps, pork and hard-boiled egg, garnished with crisp-brown shallots:

Kuala Lumpur’s Hokkien mee looks like this: yellow Hokkien noodles stir-fried with pork, shrimps and bits of cabbage, very garlicky and mushy through the gradual addition of pork-prawn broth during the stir-frying process. Copious amounts of dark soysauce will be added to give the noodles its trademark dark, glossy sheen.

Singapore’s Hokkien mee looks like this: a mix of yellow Hokkien noodles and thick, rice “chor beehoon” noodles (usually used for laksa), stir-fried in a pork-prawn broth, garnished with scrambled eggs, pork belly slices, squid rings and shrimps. It’s pale in colour, but very intensely flavoured. Usually served with fresh lime to squeeze over the noodles, plus a dollop of sambal belacan/chili paste:

I love my Hokkien mee, but also know there are 3 very different dishes depending on where you find them: in Penang, KL or Singapore.

Anyway, back to the Malaysia Boleh! foodcourt in Singapore, which proved to be so successful that the space was expanded by 30% last year, with more stalls added. Then, this June, in what can best be described as “carrying coals to Newcastle”, Singapore-owned Malaysia Boleh! expanded its brandname to, of all places, Malaysia! Or, to be more specific, to Four Seasons Place in downtown KL, next to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.

My curiousity was piqued. After all, this is one of the very rare foodcourts in Kuala Lumpur which, because of its high Muslim population, allow pork to be served. So, one gets essentially Chinese-Malaysian hawker dishes in a foodcourt environment - the only other place in downtown KL which allows this is Hutong at Lot 10 on Jalan Bukit Bintang.

What I tried at Malaysia Boleh! - I’ve listed them in order of which ones I think are must-trys and stand-outs in their own category.

  1. Penang-style Char Koay Kak - this is a Teochew/Chiuchow dish, very common in Penang and Singapore (where it’s called fried “chai tow kway”) but rarer in KL with its largely Cantonese and Hakka Chinese populace. The rendition here doesn’t hold a candle to the top Penang spots - it’s more Penang-style with larger pieces of rice cakes than Singapore-style with its chopped-up rice cakes version.

  2. Chai Kueh - the steamed dumplings here came in 4 different flavours - the standout is the one with Asian yam/taro filling, made flavoursome with the use of lard & dried shrimps.

  3. Wantan mee - I love KL-style wantan mee more than the different renditions from everywhere else - HK, Singapore, Penang, Melaka, Bangkok, Indonesia. The rendition here is every bit as good as I’d expect from KL-style wantan mee: perfectly-textured noodles, a tasty dressing made from “char-siew” (caramelised BBQ pork) drippings, sesame oil, dark & light soysauces and other condiments. The accompanying wantan dumplings were strangely bland here, though.

  4. KL-style Hokkien mee - perfectly-respectable version here. To produce an aromatic, smokey Hokkien mee, which requires frying over extremely high heat, is no mean feat within the confines of an indoor, air-conditioned food court kitchen. Full marks to them for producing this plate of sinfully-delicious, lard-laden plate of noodles.

  5. KL-style curry mee - again, KL’s curry mee is significantly different from Penang-style curry mee (with its soupy, thin curry soup and pig’s blood cubes & blood cockles) or Singapore-style curry mee (with its aromatic chicken-and-potato curry). KL-style curry mee has its signature long beans, rehydrated fried pig’s skin, poached chicken, tofu puffs (also present in Penang & Singapore versions), but with a more “seafood” flavour compared to Singapore’s. The version here is excellent, though I’d still go to Madras Lane for the best rendition within KL.

  1. Char koay teow - we thought the “char koay teow” would be the Penang variety, but it turned out to be KL-style “char koay teow” - wetter, not as intense in flavour, heavier. No Chinese sausages nor chives. Avoid.

  2. Rojak - this is the Penang-style fruit rojak and pretty good. Pay an extra RM3 for the additional crisp-fried fritters - highly-recommended.

  3. Lor mai kai and Dai bao - these two steamed dim sum items are from the same stall as the excellent chai kueh, but both are pretty bland. Avoid, if you can, as there are better food choices in this foodcourt.

Overall, this is certainly the best place to taste good Chinese-Malaysian hawker food in KL at present. I’ve only covered about half of the stalls & food choices here so far, so will need to come back for the rest - I heard the bak kut teh, chili pan mee, and __fishball noodles are other must-try stalls.

Address
Malaysia Boleh!
B1-01B Shoppes at Four Seasons Place
145 Jalan Ampang
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 10am-10pm daily

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold