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Aug 7, 2012 05:54 AM

Kuala Lumpur - Superb KL-style Fried Hokkien Noodles @ Kim Lian Kee (金莲记)

I’d blogged about Kim Lian Kee before as part of my writing about KL’s old Chinatown eats, but I reckon a 80+ year old (not more than a century-old as claimed by previous articles) eatery which invented the iconic black-sauced KL-style Hokkien noodles deserved its own thread.

Anyway, I was back there again last night. Dishes tried were:

• The unmissable KL-style fried Hokkien noodles (also called “black noodles” by its many fans). Kim Lian Kee’s version was black as night, glistening with lard, smoky from being fried over high heat (gas burners, not traditional charcoal braziers here unfortunately), and garlicky. It’s flavored with minced dried flounder, pork, pig’s liver, shrimps, squid, cabbage & liberal helpings of crisp, golden lardons. Ultra-sinful, it’s virtually heart-attack-on-a-plate via reverse lipo-suction. Kim Lian Kee’s fried Hokkien mee’s secret has to be its addition of a rich, flavorsome broth (made from boiling pork bones, shrimp-heads/shells and toasted, dried flounder bones, plus other secret aromatics). During the frying process, a ladleful of this broth would be added to the wok, and the whole concoction stirred with its trademark noisy, clanging din, till the broth had been partly absorbed by the noodles, and partly evaporated. The noodles take on a sticky, gluggy consistency as the starch begins the break down. That’s when it’ll be served, steaming hot and lip-smackingly delicious. Condiment on the side included "sambal belachan" (Malaysian-style pounded chillies with toasted shrimp paste/belachan) with a squeeze of kalamansi lime.

• Stir-fried frogs’ legs with ginger and scallions – another traditional, deceptively simple-looking dish, done to perfection here at Kim Lian Kee. The frogs’ legs had feather-light texture and were totally bursting with flavors here.

• Bitter-gourd omelette – very flavorsome here. We’re not going to kid ourselves – much of the deliciousness probably came from the use of lard for frying, something which health-conscious consumers in Singapore are loath to admit, and hence eschewed by Singaporean hawkers.

For the less-adventurous, one can opt for the air-conditioned Kim Lian Kee incarnation right across the street from this stall. We chose to dine at the dingy-looking, original stall at the busy Jalan Petaling/Jalan Hang Lekir intersection at the epicenter of KL Chinatown’s Petaling Street night market, sitting on little stools and eating from rickety tables, whilst throngs of pedestrians walked by amidst the din and noise. It’s KL at its gritty best, and I wouldn’t trade this for the world!

Address details
Kim Lian Kee Restaurant (金莲记)
49-51 Jalan Petaling
50000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +6003-20324984

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  1. Wonderful!

    Great description and report. Wish I could get that meal today. :-)
    (Yes, squeamish people might turn pale at both the food and the "colorful" place, heh.)

    Glad to read about your continuing to indulge in KL Hokkien mee on occasion. Guess your Penang trip ( created an itch which you had to scratch. ;-P

    3 Replies
    1. re: huiray

      Well, I brought my cousin (visiting from Melbourne) there, and was stealing some sideway glances at his expression as we approached the place. Mind you, he's used to eating at some off-the-road places - I should know: 30 years ago when we were both younger & with *much* healthier appetites, we'd done eating road-trips from India & Vietnam to Mexico & Morocco. But that was way back then. He's now a father of 3, owns/runs his own multi-national firm, pretty much settled down into suburban life back in Oz and wasn't exactly expecting me to bring him to a grimy eating spot where you might see rats darting around in the shadows :-D

      But, hey, Ming Room or Reunion restaurants are a dime a dozen at cities like HK, Singapore or London. But KL's Petaling Street? - One of a kind on this planet!

      When he first saw the 83-year-old Kim Lian Kee stall (which looked like it had its last spring-cleaning *before* Queen Elizabeth II was crowned), his expression was like "What the heck?". ROFL!

      Luckily, he'd always trusted my instincts and, after taking the first taste of each dish, he was eating with a gusto - polishing off 75% of each dish we ordered. My only worry was that the flimsy plastic red stool he's sitting on may not hold his 6-feet-5-inch, 250 lb frame :-D

      Yep, we had quite a meal - KL street food *is* good - simply big, big flavors.

        1. re: klyeoh

          klyeoh, I think I'll go for the newer air-con restaurant, thank you. Ha-ha!

        1. Pic 1: Kim Lian Kee stall - you can see its al fresco tables in the middle of the picture.
          Pic 2: One of KL Chinatown's famous pair of gateways book-ending Petaling Street's iconic night market.
          Pic 3: Bustling Petaling Street - a treasure-trove of pirated "branded" goods & local foods.

          12 Replies
          1. re: klyeoh

            Heh. Thanks for the photos.

            It is worth noting that the gateways and the overhead cover did not exist until more recent years. Petaling Street was a fully-functioning and fully-commercial street open to the weather and to traffic, then became a pedestrian-only street (between where the two gateways are now) still open to the weather, then became what it is today.

            1. re: huiray

              Indeed. The Petaling Street I remembered from way back when seemed less than half the size of the one now. It's full of Cantonese-speaking locals - I used to feel out of place as the only Chinese dialects I could speak were Mandarin, Hokkien and Teochew.

              These days, almost *all* the vendors are foreigners: Nepalis, Burmese, Bangladeshis, Nigerians, Afghans, Iraqis, etc. I'm surprised it's still called "Chinatown" actually. I felt even more out of place now :-D

              As for the gates and giant roofs over the streets - I just don't know when they appeared. A decade ago? A few years ago? When I moved to KL last year and went down to Petaling Street for the first time in decades, I was absolutely taken aback at the changes which had taken place. I visited KL perhaps less than 10 times in the past 25 years, and stayed for a few days each time. To finally move here resulted in a kind of culture shock I'd not anticipated. But the Chinese street food here alone made this whole new experience more than worth it.

              1. re: klyeoh

                Probably a decade or two ago? Others might pipe in here.

                I edited my post above - the part about "pedestrian-only" period as I recall was really between the Cecil Street and Sultan Street intersections.


                "To finally move here resulted in a kind of culture shock I'd not anticipated. But the Chinese street food here alone made this whole new experience more than worth it."
                I'm sure that is true, and your reports and experiences bear that out.

                OTOH, what "Petaling Street" has become does have the flavor (to me) of a "Museum Piece" in some senses with the gateways and whatnot, the Islamic Government's concession to what used to be a vibrant area of "normal" Chinese commerce.

                1. re: huiray

                  The 2 Chinese arches and the long green roof are all relatively new compared to the street market itself. According to the Wikipedia entry on Petaling Street ( :-

                  'In 2003, Petaling Street underwent a major RM11 mil face lift when two large Chinese arches to welcome visitors were placed at either end of the street. A green roof cover was constructed, covering the whole street, now dubbed he "Green Dragon". The street is now totally pedestrianised and transformed into a pedestrian shopping mall. The Street is regarded as a heritage site.'

            2. re: klyeoh

              Just wondering - I looked again at your 1st photo and thought about it more... Are you sure it's a photo of the correct corner of Cecil Street/Petaling Street? It seems to be more like this photo: which shows a view looking east towards Sultan Street, and the building at the end of the street in the middle of both pictures look like the same one...and the building sides on the right look the same too, which seems also to be in my memory banks... But perhaps I am mistaken.
              I also remember there used to be a George Town Pharmacy at the NW corner of Cecil Street/Petaling Street, where Kim Lian Kee would be (on the Cecil Street side)...?

              1. re: huiray

                It's the same street, i.e. Jln Hang Lekir/Cecil Street on my 1st photo - the pedestrians would have already passed Petaling St and be walking down Jln Hang Lekir towards Jalan Sultan as they move towards the left of the photo. They would be passing the old Koon Kee wanton noodles spot soon afterwards.

                Not too sure about Georgetown Pharmacy - are you referring to the location of air-conditioned, 2-storey Kim Lian Kee restaurant adjacent to this original stall?

                1. re: klyeoh

                  Some pics of the newer, more proper Kim Lian Kee restaurant (you can see the signboard), plus the Hokkien noodles I had in there on a previous visit (plus a papaya milk drink). You can see it has "proper" crockery and furniture, plus air-conditioning!

                  But it lacked the character of the original stall (located behind the man standing atop his stall in the 1st picture here) - which also stayed open till 5am, whereas the restaurant proper only opened till 11pm thereabouts.

                  The old stall was the one featured in Axian/Jason's TV programme on the history of Kim Lian Kee last week.

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    OK, that 1st shot, with the 45-degree-"cut" of the corner, is where I remembered George Town Pharmacy to be.

                  2. re: klyeoh

                    Yes, it's the same street, and your comments suggest the view *is* looking eastwards...after crossing Petaling Kim Lian Kee would not actually be in the photo then... ?

                    Well, George Town Pharmacy was (once) on the NW corner, as I said. Kim Lian Kee, as I remember it, would be at that same corner, the NW corner, but with the frontage actually on Cecil St/Jln Hang Lekir.

                    1. re: huiray

                      I went looking, and here's a photo of that NW corner I found:

                      Note the shop sign shown on the left side... :-)

                      Did they always have that "original stall" on the *SE* corner, on Cecil Street, that I never knew about?

                      1. re: huiray

                        Interesting - can I presume that the original Kim Lian Kee stall stayed put (where it is today) whilst its "extension-restaurant" has been moving around in this corner adjacent to it? Looked like it's taken over Georgetown Pharmacy's spot in toto.

                        The tall building in the background in your photo must be Hotel Malaya - it's still there today.

              2. Kim Lian Kee was featured by Malaysia's No. 1 food show host, Jason Yeoh aka Axian, in "Taste with Jason" on the Food Channel in Singapore this evening.

                The stall was first founded by Wang Jinlian from Anxi, Fujian, in 1927. The 88-year-old stall is now in the hands of the 3rd-generation of the family who owns it. It opens from 5pm till 5am daily, perfect if you feel hungry at 3am in the morning ;-)

                6 Replies
                1. re: klyeoh

                  i totally messed up when i was in KL, i saw this place, was going to try it then got kind of turned off on chinatown bc there seemed like nothing worth checking out and didnt end up trying it

                  oh well...

                  1. re: Lau

                    Lau, another place worth checking out in KL's Chinatown is Koon Kee, a rather grimy-looking wanton mee spot which serves out one of the best noodles in town. It was started in 1947 by Mdm Lee Kim Kee who, together with her husband, made a long, painful trek from her village in Kwangtung all the way to the port of Canton in the aftermath of WWII. They sailed to Port Klang in British Malaya, then walked all the way to Kuala Lumpur (it takes more than 1 hour to drive the distance today on the freeway, so you can imagine what it must have been like walking through dirt treks and small roads back then), set up a small wanton noodles stall in the middle of KL's Chinatown and created their own bit of culinary history.

                    Koon Kee is legendary among KL-lites who know their wanton noodles.

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      man i love the food in malaysia

                      1. re: Lau

                        Me, too! I will finally be back in October.

                      2. re: klyeoh

                        My only "grumble" with Koon Kee is that the regular noodle portion is so small. But given that it is located at food haven, it leaves room to try out the other great eats around it.

                        Yes KLK's black hokkien noodles is iconic. However over the last 10 years or more I find it has been rather inconsistent. Still good but not consistently at their very best. I noticed some of their cooks are Burmese who does a good job but not as good as the original cooks who undoubtedly need to have a break as they get older.

                        Finally the " Lor Hon Gor, Longan winter melon drink stall at the intersection across KLK is another iconic dessert drink that cannot be missed. My copy cats across Chinatown but none ever come close to this one!

                        1. re: yippy

                          yippy - try and catch Chef Lee himself (pic below) when he's cooking (and not one of his Burmese assistants). Usually, he comes around 5pm, and does the cooking till 4-5am in the morning.

                          Chef Lee inherited the business from his maternal granduncle who, in turn, was Kim Lian Kee founder, Wang JinLian's brother-in-law.