Kampung Baru: The foodie village in the middle of Kuala Lumpur
In a small corner of downtown Kuala Lumpur, a slice of village life still exists among the growing metropolis that is Malaysia’s capital.
It is a rare survivor of the almighty wrecking ball, swung by those in charge of urban redevelopment.
Kampung Baru, or “new village,” has been populated since the 1880s and today has become an amalgamation of seven villages over a 100-hectare area downtown.
Officially listed as a Malay Agricultural Settlement by the British in 1900, Kampung Baru was first established as a pastoral community to attract rural Malays into Kuala Lumpur.
Once a hot bed for political activity, today Kampung Baru is a thriving foodies’ paradise and has brought renewed attention to kampung (village) life in Kuala Lumpur.
A short hike from Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) where the gleaming Petronas Twin Towers stand, I take a late afternoon stroll to Kampung Baru.
Entering Kampung Baru from the northeast side, I come across streets named after Rajas (chiefs). The low-density neighborhood was a breath of fresh air.
Many of the homes had frangipani trees, coconut palms and banana trees on their lots while skyscrapers in the background overlook the timber houses built on stilts.
It's a Saturday, and I am just in time to wander through the pasar malam, or weekly night market. Although there are Thai and Chinese restaurants in Kampung Baru, Malay food is king here.
Malay hawker stall owners are busy grilling fish, tossing rojak -- a sweet fruit and vegetable salad -- and the unmistakable aroma of freshly fried chicken and barbecuing beef and chicken satay danced in the air.
I head straight for the satay grill and order 20 sticks of chicken and beef satay. After this amuse bouche, I yearn for something heavier and follow the crowds into Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa restaurant on Jalan Raja Muda Musa.
To the uninitiated, this is nasi campur (literally "mixed rice") at its finest. A serving table, which must be over 20 meters long, is set out with platters of vegetables, salads, various curries and grilled meats and seafood.
It’s a semi-buffet affair -- you grab a plate and choose the food you want but you are only charged for what you take.
I take a helping of nasi lemak, coconut steamed rice banana leaf with peanuts, cucumbers, sambal and dried anchovies, and put together a monster plate of beef rendang, grilled chicken, grilled fish and various sautéed vegetables.
Going through the Kampung Baru pasar malam on a full stomach is a torturous affair. You want to eat everything you see even if you don’t know what it is.
It’s colorful, smells great and the sight of everyone enjoying themselves is wonderful. I can’t help myself and order a fresh dragonfruit smoothie to finish off my evening.
I wander the numerous lanes of the pasar malam and find stalls selling DVDs, books, clothing and all kinds of fashion accessories.
Even if I can’t eat and drink everything that evening, not to worry, the night market will still be open into the early hours of Sunday morning. I can indulge in some nasi campur for breakfast.
By public transit take the Putra LRT to Kampung Baru station or go by monorail to Medan Tuanku station. For the 30-minute walking route from Kuala Lumpur City Center walk northwest on Jalan Sultan Ismail, cross the bridge and turn right on Jalan Rajah Abdullah.