Eating at Fiesta Malaysia 2016, Melbourne

I was so dreading ending our European honeymoon and returning to Australia and the ‘real world’ that I booked our next holiday before we even set foot in Australia. No, that’s a slight exaggeration – while I did book our next holiday, it had more to do with the fact that my cousin is having a wedding ceremony in Sri Lanka at the end of the year than my own despondent emotions!

We decided to go to Sri Lanka for the ceremony with my father and brother with some quick stopovers on the way – Singapore on the way there, and Kuala Lumpur on the way back. My father hasn’t been to any of those countries and is particularly excited about the trip, and of course the eating we’ll be doing!

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To give him a sneak peek of what Malaysia has to offer, we went to the 2016 Fiesta Malaysia, a festival held at Federation Square run by the Malaysian Student’s Council of Australia. With multiple food stalls featuring some of the best Malaysian eateries in town, performances on stage and giveaways, it was quite an event to behold.

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Dad enjoyed watching the lion dancing performed by the Chinese Martial Arts Association of Australia. It was less popular with other members of the crowd though, with more than a handful of babies and young children bawling their eyes out as they got scared.

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The main attraction for us was the food! We started off at the Mamak stall, as Dad remembered the meal we had enjoyed at Mamak in Chatswood when he came to visit me a few years ago. They kept their street festival menu simple, with only chicken satay, a few different roti and cold drinks on the menu.

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The surprisingly warm winter’s day had us yearning for a cold drink – and what better cold drink than a teh tarik ais? The concentrated condensed milk sweetness of this drink made my father’s teeth ache, making K laugh as it hardly compared to the sweetness of most iced drinks in Malaysia.

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The Mamak chicken satay was where it was at, with beautifully smokey chargrilled firm but tender chicken. With the sweet peanut satay sauce poured over the top of the skewers, I happily devoured my three skewers in under half a minute.

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Our next stop was at Little Ipoh for their Chao Kway Teow which came with a surprisingly hot chilli kick. While full of flavour and a generous serving of prawns, meat and tofu, it lacked that genuine ‘wok hei’ that you want to find in dishes like this. I’m giving Little Ipoh the benefit of the doubt though, as I think it’s just a result of working within the limitations of a market stall rather than a full commercial kitchen.

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We got a serving of the Pulut Panggang to share as well. Pulut Panggang is made of glutinous rice and desiccated coconut wrapped in banana leaves before being grilled over an open fire. It’s not actually something that I often see on the menu in Malaysian restaurants, so I was happy to give it a try. This actually tasted a little bit like dessert with the sweet desiccated coconut and plain glutinous rice!

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Our last savoury stop was at Quali Food Truck which made its debut at Fiesta Malaysia. They were still working out some logistic issues on their first day of trading, so that some customers ended up waiting up to half an hour for their food. I hope these issues have since been sorted out!

To be honest though, I’d be quite happy waiting that long if it meant getting some of this delicious 100 Spice Fried Chicken – otherwise known as a fancy ayam goreng. Everything about this was right. The chicken was crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. The varied spices of the batter made the chicken equally chilli, savoury and salty. I had two pieces, but definitely could have had more!

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We also got a serve of Nasi Lemak from Quali, complete with two additional pieces of fried chicken. Served with sambal, cucumber, hard boiled egg, peanuts and coconut rice, this nasi lemak ticked all the right boxes and was quite a generous serving. Again, definitely one worth waiting for.

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After sitting on the steps of Federation Square for a little while to digest our meal, we decided to go back for dessert! Our first stop was the Rolling Scoops to try some Malaysian-inspired flavours designed for the festival.

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We got one scoop each of the Pandan and Coconut Gelato and the Durian Gelato to share between four people – this is despite the fact that I’m really the only person in my family to really appreciate the complex flavours and smell of durian! My dad insisted though as he was interested in trying durian for the first time in a number of years…but walked away preferring the pandan & coconut flavour anyway!

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Dad wasn’t daunted though and went on to try more durian desserts from the Taste of Malaysia stall. They offer a little tasting plate for $15 – unfortunately they’d sold out of the durian slice before we got there, so we had to have two durian crepes instead. I loved the strong flavour of the durian crepe but K found it too creamy. The macaron was a tad too chewy, but the mini cheesecake was delicious.

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We also bought a little box of kuih to take with us – a chocolate and pandan flavoured slice cake. It wasn’t remarkable unfortunately, and I would definitely have preferred having some kuih lapis instead!

I think we’ll be back to Fiesta Malaysia next year! We had a great time, and ate so much delicious food from different vendors. There’s nothing quite like a great street food festival to get me excited.

Fiesta Malaysia was held on 21 May 2016 in Federation Square, Melbourne.

Chanoy Honeymoon: Malaysia, September 2015

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

It’s hard to believe that prior to dating K, I simply didn’t have that much exposure to proper Malaysian food. My parents had run a Malay-Chinese style takeaway shop for years, but the ‘Malay’ part of the name was really only in reference to the curry chicken, roti and gado-gado that was on the menu. Everything else was Chinese in style. How things have changed. My Malay food vocabulary has expanded dramatically over the past four years and I can read a menu as well as anyone. As long as you can tell your nasi from your mee, and your ayam from your kambing, you’re doing okay!

Anyway, while we were in Malaysia for a week’s stopover before heading onto Europe, we didn’t just stay in Kuala Lumpur! We spent two nights up in the Cameron Highlands, and also spent one day in Seremban, K’s hometown. The stay in the Cameron Highlands was a particularly good idea on my behalf – staying up in the cooler climate was a great break from the heat and humidity of the rest of Malaysia.

To get up to the Cameron Highlands, you can buy a bus ticket online from the Unititi Express, which I recommend over purchasing a ticket on the day. It’s not any cheaper online, but it does mean that you can walk right past the various dodgy individuals who loiter around the Pudu bus station in Kuala Lumpur, trying to scam/sell bus tickets to foreign tourists. The bus journey takes about four hours (with a toilet break), but it’s a very comfortable ride as the bus seats are more like first-class lounges than a traditional cramped bus seat.

The Cameron Highlands can be difficult to get around if you don’t have a car, so we joined a half-day tour when we got there which took us to places like the Butterfly Farm, the BOH Tea Plantation, the Mossy Forest, and to the top of Gunung Brinchang. While we were there, we also took the opportunity to explore the townships of Brinchang and Tanah Rata in the Highlands, which meant lots of eating (of course!), including a few meals as Restoran Mayflower (read review) and indulging ourselves in getting lots of massages too.

We also spent a day in Seremban as well, visiting K’s family there. It’s easy to get to Seremban from Kuala Lumpur, with a single train from KL Sentral that takes you straight to Seremban station in just under one hour. Our time in Seremban was mainly spent eating, as you’ll read about in this blog entry.

Other meals we enjoyed while we were in Kuala Lumpur included a meal at Peranakan Place in the new Nu Sentral mall, some cheap Indian rotis and tosais at ABC Bistro Cafe, a much fancier meal at Enak KL for our dating anniversary, and a long bitsy lunch at the Lot 10 food court (photos in the below slideshow).

Sadly, while we were in Malaysia, much of the country was blanketed in a deep haze caused by forest fires in Indonesia. You can read more about the 2015 Southeast Asian haze on Wikipedia. It didn’t affect our travels that much, but did mean that there wasn’t any opportunity to take more scenic cityscape photos as the whole city was blanketed in a haze. We also noticed that a large number of people were wearing face masks while they were out and about, to help block some of the more harmful air pollution.

It did mean that we spent a lot of time inside in shopping centres…though, to be honest, the humidity contributes to that as I end up wanting to spend more time indoors in air-conditioning! We walked around malls like Nu Sentral, Lot 10, Pavilion and Starhill Gallery and Fahrenheit 88 and did a bit of window shopping. Not actual shopping though, as we’re travelling light over the next eight months and can’t afford to buy and carry things around with us!

Overall our time in Malaysia was a blur of some outdoor activities in the cool climate of the Cameron Highlands, window shopping in Kuala Lumpur, and a lot of eating everywhere! That also pretty much sums up what most of our trips to Malaysia are like – shopping and eating. We’ll be back of course, probably next time with a baby in tow to introduce to the rest of K’s family.

A Day of Eating in Seremban, Malaysia

The paternal side of K’s family hails from Seremban in Malaysia, in the state of Negeri Sembilan. It’s only an hour and a half south of Kuala Lumpur on the train, so we try to make an effort to go and visit relatives for at least one day every time that we go to Malaysia.

We have to prepare carefully before we go though – like most Malaysians, K’s family is obsessed with food and will plan out a whole day of eating for each of our visits. I don’t just mean breakfast, lunch and dinner – in the Choy family, a day of eating isn’t complete without breakfast, morning tea, elevensies, brunch, lunch, twosies, afternoon tea, pre-dinner snacks, dinner, dessert, supper…you get the picture!

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On this visit, we managed to cut back the eating a little bit by only catching up with one branch of the family, rather than trying to meet up with everyone. We started the day with a trip to Pence Food Centre, where a number of different hawker-style stores are located. We got the Hainan Chicken Rice Balls – warm tender hainan chicken served with chicken rice shaped into balls like arancini. The clear chicken broth served with the chicken is incredibly more-ish and flavourful.

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Also at Pence, we had a bowl each of Seremban’s famous Beef Noodles. There’s a number of different stalls around Seremban that sell this type of beef noodles, and there’s also non-stop arguments amongst locals about which actually serves the best version of these noodles. Members of K’s family prefer the noodle stall at the market near the train station, but I think this version from Pence is still pretty amazing – rich, savoury sauce, sloppy noodles, and incredibly flavourful beef.

Pence Food Centre is located at 422 Jalan Seng Meng Lee, 70200 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.

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Our next stop was just down the road at the Siew Pao Master for the famous Seremban Siew Pao – they’re so famous that you can now get them in Kuala Lumpur in places like the Lot 10 food court! There’s a long queue in front of this semi-industrial bakery of locals wanting to buy box after box of the siew pao, as well as the other baked sweets, pastries, buns and delicacies. The quality and quantity of buns that the bakery churns out is incredibly impressive, and all the ones that we tasted held up surprisingly well over a few days without showing any sign of staleness at all.

Siew Pao Master is located at 368 Jalan Seng Meng Lee, 70200 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.

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The next stop was at Restoran Asia for their famous Asia Laksa. This is K’s brother’s favourite laksa shop in the whole world, as evidenced by the fact that the elderly owner of the shop remembers the boys from their visits over the years as they’ve gone back to Malaysia.  If you have the language skills and the know-how to make the request, you can customise the laksa noodles however you wish with a choice of size, noodles, spiciness, toppings, and so on. I got the mee hoon noodles, all the better for soaking up the intensely rich spiced laksa soup. The curry chicken addition on top was deliciously fragrant, though a bit too bony for my liking.

Restoran Asia is located at 364 Jalan Tok Ungku, 70100 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.

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Following the Asia Laksa, we went with K’s cousin Geraldine who took us to Haji Shariff’s for dessert…but first their Rojak! This was a really nice interlude between the heavier meals of the morning and dessert – the fresh tofu puffs and bean shoots were really refreshing, and the slightly spicy sweet sauce was very more-ish. The only downside is that Haji Shariff’s isn’t air-conditioned, and the large ceiling fans don’t do much to help cool down from the overwhelming Malaysian heat!

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Luckily, Haji Shariff’s main business is in selling different varities of  ice-cold refreshing Cendol. K got the plain cendol, but I opted for the one with red beans. Not too sweet, but sweet enough. Intensely creamy. Incredibly refreshing. Very more-ish. I was tempted to have a second bowl of the cendol just to cool down further, but I was already too full from all the eating we had already done that day!

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Haji Shariff Cendol is located at 44 Jalan Yam Tuan, 70100 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.

And there you have it – our day of eating in Seremban, Malaysia. We managed to squeeze six meals into six hours, and virtually had to pour ourselves onto the train back to Kuala Lumpur where we made the decision to skip having a ‘proper’ dinner. If we’d chosen to stay for dinner in Seremban, I would probably be sharing photos of roast sucking pig with you, as that’s what we had the last time we were in town!

I really enjoy visiting Seremban and K’s relatives whenever we’re in Malaysia…but boy oh boy, I always feel like I’m going to burst from overeating every time I visit!