The best part about travelling with food bloggers? The non-stop agenda for food.
After picking up our hire van from Mid Valley Megamall (a mere 430 shops across five-and-a-half floors), we christened the vehicle with a trek to Klang.
It's a little over 30km south west from Mid Valley to Klang, but distance never factors in the traffic jams that are synonymous with Kuala Lumpur. Regardless of the hour, you will inevitably encounter a traffic snarl. The slow-moving traffic does give you a chance to sightsee: mosques and markets, Hindu temples and highrises, even if it is through the car window.
Markets in Klang
We're heading to Klang for one reason: the local specialty of bak kut teh or pork rib tea.
Klang Lek Bak Kut Teh
It takes us a few attempts to find Klang Lek Bak Kut Teh, a large restaurant that suddenly appears in the middle of suburbia. Bare tiled floors, chipped formica tables and faded plastic chairs welcome us, only a few tables of late lunching locals remain.
Tables and chairs
The fan above our heads is turned on as soon as we seated. It offers little relief in the sticky humidity, but we relish the slow movement of air as we feel our thighs slowly adhere themselves to the seat.
Kettle on the gas burner
There's a small furnace sitting next to me. It's our own table's kettle on the boil, the licking flames fueled by a rather ominous looking gas cylinder below.
Rinsing the tea cups
The drinking of tea is an essential component to bak kut teh, the tea said to provide cleansing properties against the fatty richness of the pork rib soup. The tea making process is a ceremony in itself, one that involves rinsing the tea cups, washing the tea leaves and only allowing diners to drink the second pour.
Ti Kuan Yin tea
In Klang, the tea of choice is Ti Kuan Yin or Iron Goddess of Mercy tea. It's a refined Chinese oolong tea that is light and floral.
Bak kut teh RM30 (about $AU10.90)
Bak kut teh is usually eaten for breakfast, a clear broth made from pork bones and a heady mix of Chinese herbs and spices. The resultant stock is redolent with garlic, soy, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and ginger, the sweetness of pork at its core.
Bak kut teh with intestines RM30 (about $AU10.90)
We try two types of bak kut teh, each served in a clay pot. The standard version boasts chunks of fatty pork that fall apart in the mouth, the other filled with tight scrolls of bouncy but delicious pork intestines.
You tiao or yau char gwai deep fried bread sticks
Plain white rice is the perfect canvas for appreciating the fragrant soup. We alternate mouthfuls of rice with soft chewy hunks of deep fried bread and the barely wilted crispness of stir-fried lettuce leaves.
Stir-fried lettuce with deep fried shallots
Klang Bak Kut Teh
It feels a little odd eating hot soup when its 34C, but Minh swears by it.
Bak Kut Teh stock
After we've finished our meals, we get a chance to inspect the bak kut teh stock, a cauldron that is filled with pork bones and chicken feet and bubbling enticingly like a witch's brew.
Streetside fritter stall
Whilst everyone else clambers back into the van after lunch, Minh's attention is caught by a streetside stall, set up in the middle of a suburban nature strip like it's the most natural place in the world. She has barely uttered my name before I'm by her side, keenly exploring the possibility of dessert.
Sweet potato fritters RM0.50 each (about $AU0.18 each)
A husband and wife work side by side, quickly and quietly battering segments of sweet potato before plunging them into an enormous wok of hot oil.
Deep-frying banana fritters
They work silently, the husband automatically tending to the deep-fryer whilst the wife patiently talks with Billy, whom we've called over to help translate prices and what's on offer.
Banana fritters RM0.50 each (about $AU0.18 each)
We return to the van with bags of fritters and only a few coins missing from our wallets. I love that food here is cooked so fresh and so cheaply.
The banana fritter is searing hot, fresh from the deepfryer, its sweet yellow flesh almost pulpy, encased in a golden batter that is light and not overly greasy.
Yam, new year cake and sweet potato fritter RM0.80 (about AU$0.29)
But I'm delirious with joy over the surprise fritter sandwich combination, layers of yam and sweet potato surrounding a thin disc of new year cake, a brown sugar glutinous rice cake that has evolved into a gooey, tacky and molten centre of stretchy starchy bliss.
Batu Caves and the 272 steps
From Klang, we head north east past KL and up to Batu Caves. The limestone caves here are said to be 400 million years old, and over time, the site has become a significant Hindu shrine.
The colossal statue at the entrance is the first thing you notice. Standing at 42.7m high, the statue of Lord Murugan, a Hindu deity, is the world's tallest status of Murugan. Over 300 litres of gold paint was used to paint the concrete and steel statue.
Our exploration of the cave is delayed by a monsoonal downpour that sees the heavens open. Lightning, vicious winds and relentless rain create a miniature flash flood as we seek shelter in the visitor's tea room.
Fresh coconut juice
We occupy ourselves with fresh coconut juice and ice creams whilst we wait for the rain to settle. When it does, the area is flooded, and we have no choice but to remove our shoes and wade out into waters that are 20cm deep.
I will not lie. Climbing 272 steps is hard work. With one hand holding onto my shoes as I make the ascent barefoot, I find the concrete steps are slippery from the rain, and the steps themselves are steep.
It's the most exercise we do on our entire trip.
Inside Batu Caves
The main cave boasts a ceiling that is an impressive 100m high. We find shrines and stalactites in the cool damp caves that drip slowly with puddled rain.
You will also find tourist shops, and tacky souvenirs and a man offering photos of you posing with a snake.
A happy couple posing with a snake
A not-so-happy couple posing with a snake
Macaque monkeys also roam the area although visitors are warned they are often territorial and may bite.
Macaque monkey feeding on a cracker from a tourist
Cleaning up after the miniature flood
Ringing the bell in the Hindu temple
Locals buying Indian sweets at the outdoor stall
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Klang Lek Bak Kut Teh
27, Jalan Teluk Pulai
41100 Klang, Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 3371 7664
Open 7 days 7.30am – 9.00pm
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Sri Subramaniam Temple,
68100 Selayang, Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: +60 (03) 2287 9422
Open 7 days 6am - 9pm
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6/01/2010 02:26:00 a.m.