I love markets.
The mix of people-watching, checking out fresh produce and sampling the freshly prepared local food all in one venue is to me the perfect key to get acquainted with any city or country.
The Imbi market is right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
It comprises of 2 main sections – the wet market (where the locals buy vegetables and meat) and the hawkers’ section where they trade some of the best Malaysian food.
The market starts early in the morning at around 6.30am and closes around 12pm to 1pm but it’s best to go early, walk around, explore both sections and then reward yourself with a hearty breakfast.
What to eat here:
1. Ann Nasi Lemak.
Nasi lemak is probably one of our iconic dishes.
Due to our multi-racial society, we have several versions of this popular dish.
The basics are similar though; fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk served with fried anchovies, peanuts and a hearty serving of sambal (chili paste) plus an egg.
The Chinese may prepare their sambal differently and serve theirs with an assortment of other dishes such as fish, meat (pork & chicken) and vegetables.
Ann’s version rocks because of her pork skin curry. These pieces of spongy skin absorb sauce easily and give a delightful springy bite.
If you need your morning caffeine then the (2) Ah Weng Koh Hainan Tea stall is your best friend.
This isn’t single origin nor cold pressed sophistication but just plain good strong coffee to jolt you out of your morning daze.
Undecided whether to have coffee or tea?
Try the best of both worlds with a ‘cham’ -a mixture of tea and coffee.
Each glass served here comes with beautiful thick frothy foam dripping off the cup.
Add an order of half boiled eggs (you will have to crack the eggs yourself) plus the local toast slathered with a piece of cold butter and our local kaya coconut jam to go with it.
We took too long to take it out of the hot water & ended up with overcooked eggs!
The recommended timing is about 5 minutes after it was served to you.
Be prepared to wait as Ah Weng Koh is really really popular. I couldn’t care less for the toast & kaya (I make better ones) but the drinks (RM1.60 each, depending on your choice) warrant a try.
Next, the (3) Ah Fook Chee Cheong Fun.
Frankly I didn’t think it is that great but then again I am picky with my fish paste. At the very least it is freshly made on the spot and taste-wise, decent.
Be prepared to stand in queue (yes it is self-service) for some time before it is your turn to choose your yong tau foo.
Your picks will be boiled/fried, cut and passed to you on the spot.
Depending on what you chose, each piece is RM0.80 – RM1.50. The rice rolls (chee cheong fun) is RM2 per roll.
Ah Fook CCF has been in business for over 10 years.
Just beside the Ah Fook Chee Cheong Fun stall is the famous (4) SisterS Crispy Popiah (spring rolls).
Personally I wouldn’t recommend it as I find it rather bland and expensive. For RM2.20 per roll, there were barely any jicama and a whole load of crispy deep fried bits, cucumbers and what nots.
It is far-cry from the original pohpiah of our ancestors!
Why queue (and self-service) for this?
I couldn’t resist (4) Char Kuey Teow so I ordered one. The old uncle manning the wok did look very competent.
Unfortunately the char kuey teow he dishes out isn’t. Well, at least not to me.
But if you absolutely must have your char kuey teow, there’s no harm ordering a plate either.
It has already been over 20 years and Uncle is showing no signs of slowing down.
RM4.50 (S), RM5.50 (B), close on Mon & Tues.
I would however recommend you to grab an egg tart from (5) Bunn Choon Confectionery. These babies are baked on premise and require a minimum wait of 15 – 30 mins depending on weekdays/weekends.
Buttery, crumbly and eggy, Bunn Choon egg tarts come in 3 flavours. I never bother with others since the original (RM 1.50) is my favourite.
The black ones are charcoal crust which to me it’s more of a novelty than actually imparting any flavour.
Other items for sale are the BBQ pork pie (RM1.30), kaya puff (RM1.50), salted egg & lotus paste (RM3), century egg & lotus (RM3), almond tart, tradition “wife” biscuits and well, just about all sorts of Chinese pastries.
During the 8th month of the Chinese Lunar calendar, you can order mooncakes from them too.
This family-run business has been around for over 100 years so you are biting into a piece of tradition & heritage when you savour any their confectionery!
6. Pork Intestine Porridge (RM6.00).
The gruel is smooth and thick. To many, this is comfort food for the soul.
The lady boss is chatty if she is in a good mood.
She made small talk as she observed me wolfing down almost 15 dishes that morning. After she deduced that I must be a writer of some sort, she made sure to state proudly that her pork intestines are freshly prepared daily and they stayed crunchy even til the end of the bowl.
One of my repeat orders at the Imbi Market is the (7) steamed egg. This isn’t a famous and I don’t think any other blogs/sites has mentioned it.
I am not sure why, for it does warrant a mention!
Eggy and silky, this nutritiously filling bowl only cost RM1.50.
Look out for this stall at the back of the food area, on the right of Ah Weng Koh (if you are facing Ah Weng Koh), all the way to the end.
The name is Red Apron.
Not much activity surrounds it and that’s a shame for the (8) Braised Ee Foo Mee (Penang version) and the steamed egg that I had was good!
This is the dish that I’ll enthusiastically recommend to all my friends; the (9) Ginger Chicken Noodle.
Portion is big (that hold true for the chicken as well so you are not getting just a plateful of noodles), noodles is doused in a very tasty sauce and the chicken… gosh.. smooth, juicy and tender with a firm bite.
The pungent ginger paste spread over the chicken should flavour it adequately enough but if you are in need of more spice, the chilli dip accompanying it should give you a nice fiery kick.
I really do love this!
While I feast, an update on my FB showed a comment about how good the wantan mee here is. I must have ordered from the wrong stall, for this (10) Joe wantan mee (look out for the Indian guy with long hair) wasn’t really as good as I had anticipated it to be.
Well, credit where it’s due, that Indian chap is one of the friendliest guy ever. He told me that they have been plying their trade since 1982.
RM6.50 (B), RM5.50 (S).
A decent plate of wantan mee. And that’s about it.
I am partial to ginger so this was another “top-pick at Imbi Market” of mine.
Aunty and her son claimed that they are the only one (as far as they know) to be offering this unique recipe.
The Chinese has long ago believed in the merits of ginger for reducing bloated-ness and wind. The addition of Chinese wine doubled the potency of the dish.
The white chunks are actually egg and ginger. Other ingredients include prawns, pork and the noodles of your choice.
Intestines, liver and other spare parts of the swine are optional.
(11) Ginger and Wine Mee Sua (RM8).
Besides the Ginger and Wine Noodles, Aunty’s second signature dish is the Fish Head Beehoon. She told me to try her Cantonese Yee Mee, Singapore Meehoon, Hokkien Mee and Lor Mee with Egg too.
Yes Aunty, I’ll be back!
I was told to order my curry mee (12) from this particular stall.
In fact one should know exactly which stall to order from when you are at Imbi Market since there are duplicates.
Some stalls offers a variety of noodles dishes and most are overlaps – wantan mee, curry mee, pork noodles.
I poked my head around her stall and attempted to gauge the quality of her curry mee by looking at the broth and ingredients as she prepares her customers’ orders.
The rich looking and bright curry soup got my attention. I fired my order, and waited anxiously for the verdict as my friend took her first bite. An Ipoh girl, she loves curry mee and starting her day with a fiery bowl of curry noodles for breakfast is a norm.
Verdict: She pronounced it satisfactory.
I took a bite and realized that it could do with more coconut milk.
For those seeking the comfort of soup (though I wouldn’t advise it since most of them are MSG-laden), this stall offers that and the elusive Hainanese Laksa.
Hainanese Chicken Rice, Hainanese Chicken/Pork chops are fairly common, but Hainanese Laksa? What is it supposed to even taste like??
Apparently this is only available on weekends, and since I was already standing in front of her stall, I ordered a simple noodle soup instead.
I’m a big fan of fishballs and the fish paste noodles was decent while the fishball noodles (pictured below) wasn’t worth the trouble.
The much better fish paste noodles:
The so-so fishball noodles.
13. Fishball noodles. RM5.50.
Another soupy item; the Pan Mee (14). Not great.
Markets. Don’t you just love them? 🙂
As you waddle out of the food area (I assumed that you would have stuffed yourself with the variety of food available), take a stroll within its square.
There are plenty of vendors selling traditional kuih (local pastries and cakes), rice dumplings, cookies, cakes and snacks that you could pack home for later, say teatime.
The wet market area offers good quality fresh produce. Other than perishables, shoes, clothes and kitchenware are available for sale here too.
Seating arrangement can be a bit cramped, and on weekends it is guaranteed to be worst. Be there early, say 8am if possible, and spare yourself the agonizing wait for a table.
Young, old, couples, families… everyone is happy when there’s good food yes?
Food covered in this post:
1. Ann Nasi Lemak
2. Ah Weng Koh Hainan Tea (Cham, coffee, toast, eggs)
3. Ah Fook Chee Cheong Fun
4. SisterS Crispy Popiah
5. Char Kuey Teow
6. Bunn Choon Confectionery
7. Pork Intestine Porridge
8. Steamed egg – stall Red Apron
9. Ee Foo Mee (Penang version) – stall Red Apron
10. Ginger Chicken Noodle
11. Wantan mee
12. Ginger and Wine Mee Sua
13. Curry Mee
14. Fishpaste and fishball noodles
15. Pan Mee
How to get there:
Address: Pasar Baru Bukit Bintang, Jalan Melati, Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur
Take the train (Monorail) to Imbi Station.
Refer map: https://goo.gl/maps/tVKrj
How to get there (Recommended mode): Take a metered taxi from Imbi Station.
What to wear: Light clothing, shoes.
What to expect: Local spot. Expect a busy trading market and a crowded hawker food and fresh produce area.
Operational hours: 6am – 1pm. Everything (Fresh produce and food market) is closed on Mondays but some stalls observe their own rest days.
Tips on safety, communication, ordering and directions:
It is a locals’ market so you can expect some curious stares. However, people are generally friendly so just ask around if you’re unsure. Some may not speak English but they do understand numeric English so just point at the items or food you want and say “One or two or three” and “Eat here or Take away”.
Prices are usually shown on the stall; S for small portion – RMXX (RM denotes Ringgit Malaysia) or B for Big.
Like anywhere else do watch out for your belongings as you navigate the market space.