Jalan Imbi Market, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysian popiah being made by the famous Two Sisters at Imbi market

Malaysian popiah being made by the famous Two Sisters at Imbi market

One of my favourite places to visit whenever I am in Kuala Lumpur is the wet markets around the city. Although these wet  markets are slowly disappearing in the face of global supermarket chains which now dominate fresh food retail in Malaysia, they are still one of the cheapest means of getting fresh meat, seafood, fruits and vegetables from rural cottage industries, farms, abattoirs and orchards to consumers.

These wet markets are also an eating place which sell Malaysian hawker food that has been part of Malaysian food culture for generations that date back to the colonials days of Malaya under British rule.

One of my favourite wet markets in Kuala Lumpur is the Imbi market on Jalan Kampung which is a stone’s throw from the shopping precinct of Bukit Bintang.

Colourful floor mats being sold on a van

Colourful floor mats being sold on a van

Overheads are low when shop owners do not need to rent retail space in large shopping centres. Everyday items such as clothing, kitchenware and utensils, toys and shoes are paraded and sold on the back of vans and makeshift stalls that fold shut at the end of each business session.

Mobile charcoal griller behind a scooter

Mobile charcoal griller behind a scooter

A makeshift kitchen can be the back of a scooter where succulent marinated meat is grilled and fresh bread toasted at the same time to make a delightful burger.

Mobile ice cold drinks from the back of a van

Mobile ice cold drinks from the back of a van

Utility vans unfold to become mobile vending shops selling drinks such as fresh sugar cane juice, soya bean milk and ice jelly drinks.

Popular Malaysian cakes and nyonya kuih

Popular Malaysian cakes and nyonya kuih

Popular Malaysian cakes and nyonya kuih are all readily available and there is rarely a session where these items are not sold out.

Kitchen utensils

Kitchen utensils

The business hours for food stalls usually start as early as 6am each morning (except Mondays where most wet markets around Kuala Lumpur are closed) and will remain open until all the food items are sold towards noon.

Fresh fruit stalls

Fresh fruit stalls

Shop and browse with care among the sea of shoppers

Shop and browse with care among the sea of shoppers

Fresh flowers stall

Fresh flowers stall

The livelihood of the shop owners at Imbi market has been dependent upon the patronage of locals who live in and around the city areas. Housewifes and foodies all have their favourite stalls and their own opinions as to which seafood stall sells the freshest prawns or which nasi lemak is the best in town.

Dried oysters (RM10 per 100gm or A$3 per 100gm)

Dried oysters (RM10 per 100gm or A$3 per 100gm)

Dried oysters and squid are relatively expensive and its concentrated flavours will bring complexity to soups and stir-fries.

Dried squid

Dried squid

Diners tucking into their favourite Malaysian hawker food

Diners tucking into their favourite Malaysian hawker food

The markets are also a favourite breakfast haunt for locals because of the array of food available. Malaysians love, among so many local favourites, nasi lemak, laksa, kon-low wanton noodles, kaya toast and chee cheong fun for brekky.

Toast with kaya, butter and ice coffee

Toast with kaya, butter and local coffee with milk

Whole families, tourists and golfers from neighbouring Royal Selangor Golf Club can often be seen tucking into their food after an early morning round of golf.

A helping hand from mum while tucking into half boiled eggs

A helping hand from mum while tucking into half boiled eggs

Frying yu tiao

Frying yu tiao

Yu tiao or deep-fried flour sticks are best dipped into local black coffee or accompanied with congee.

Delectable apom, pancakes with sugar and roasted peanuts

Delectable apom, pancakes with sugar and roasted peanuts

A wide selection of local desserts, sweets and savoury treats is hard to resist as you walk through a meandering maze of food, clothing and fresh fruit stalls.

Preparing popiah

Preparing popiah

I approach the famous Sisters Crispy Popiah stall and one of the sisters was busy making the delectable vegetable rolls that is filled with beansprouts, roasted peanuts, cucumber, crispy dried shrimps and jicama (also known as yam bean or turnip) then laced with hoisin and chilli sauce.

She was a little shy and gave me a sheepish smile until a waiting customer blurted that her popiah would soon be featured on the internet.

Popiah

Popiah RM2.00 or A$0.65 each

She then looked up and gave a big smile into the camera. Her skills in making these popiah is quite amazing. Within a minute, she has spooned all the ingredients into at least 10 wafer-thin skins, rolled them up and chopped each into five equal segments for a throng of waiting customers.

Sisters cispy popiah stall

Sisters cispy popiah stall

Porridge and curry stall

Porridge and curry stall

By about 11am, the busiest of trading times are almost over and each stall begin to wind down and call it a day.

Fresh salmon and squid in seafood stall

Fresh salmon and squid in seafood stall

By far the wettest part of the Imbi wet market is where the fresh seafood and chicken stalls are. Fresh seafood is paraded on open table tops with big ice blocks as make-shift refrigeration.

Local fish ikan kembong and shrimps

Local fish ikan kembong and shrimps

The area where chickens are slaughtered and prepared for sale are probably the wettest because large amounts of water is required to process the live birds.

Chickens awaiting their eventual fate

Chickens awaiting their eventual fate

Live birds are stacked in cages awaiting the cull where slaughter hands slit the throat of each bird with clinical precision, left to bleed and then tossed into a large defeathering drum.

Stirring chickens in the defeathering drum, defeathered chicken ready for gutting in large red container

Stirring chickens in the defeathering drum, chicken ready for gutting in large red container

The entire process of preparing the live birds for sale might take all of fifteen minutes where fresh chicken meat is then paraded for sale on open table tops.

Fresh chicken stall

Fresh chicken stall

Fresh chicken stall

Fresh chicken stall

Service with a smile, business is brisk today

Service with a smile, business is brisk today

A large bag of chicken feet

A large bag of chicken feet

Chicken feet is a local delicacy that can be found during yum cha and also used in soups.

Whole fresh chickens

Whole fresh chickens

Whole fresh chickens with legs and head on is a very rare sight in Australia.

Fresh chicken eggs stall

Fresh chicken eggs stall

Fresh chicken eggs are not classified in terms of weight, caged, free range, its origin, providore and all other information that we look for in our delis and supermarkets.

Preparing mutton for sale

Preparing lamb for sale

Lamb is a local favourite and is usually made into delicious lamb curries and stews.

Removing fat and sinew from leg of lamb

Removing fat and sinew from leg of lamb

Peeling eschallots

Peeling eschallots

Eschallot is used for a variety of cuisines in Malaysia, especially from making curry pastes, sambal, chutney, garnishes and fresh salads.

Peeling eschallots

Peeling eschallots

Tropical fruits such as rambutan and jack fruit is relatively cheap and plentiful and definitely a favourite with locals.

 

Rambutans RM5.00 per kg (A$1.60 per kg)

Rambutans RM5.00 per kg (A$1.60 per kg)

Apart from eating it fresh, jack fruit is also used to make desserts and cakes.

Cutting jackfruit

Cutting jackfruit

Toys for toddlers and children are plentiful and local also come to the markets to shop during festivals such as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali and Christmas.

Toys and little teddy bears

Toys and little teddy bears

It is sobering to find talent in the face of adversity and hardship.

A beggar belting out a tune

A beggar belting out a tune

Imbi market (aka Pasar Besar Bukit Bintang)
Jalan Kampung (off Jalan Bukit Bintang)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 55100
Open everyday (except Mondays) from 6.00am – around noon.

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14 Responses to Jalan Imbi Market, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  1. Thank you for sharing so much of your fabulous culture with us through this wonderful photos

  2. What a great day out! There’s everything you need here isn’t there? I’ve never seen dried oysters before, but they’d be great to cook with.

  3. Juliana says:

    Thank you so much for the nice tour at the market…I enjoyed the pictures and the description of it…I love visiting local markets…and I miss so much the fresh yu tiao…
    Hope you are having a fantastic week :-)

  4. Arrrrrrrrr I was enjoying all the pictures of the market until the CHICKEN!!! Wish me luck, I’m about to go to bed and the image of the chicken feet sticking out from a bag is stuck in my head. lol! Thanks for the wonderful report! ;-) chicken feet chicken feet chicken feet…

  5. What a wonderful market, and ooohhhhhhh, how much I’d love to stroll around there! :D I’ve been to traditional (food) markets like the in Tunesia and Italy, but in Germany we don’t have those anymore. :(

  6. heidi says:

    Thanks- I loved this post!
    I loved the picture of the chicken feet! My husband grew up on a farm in Canada- and he’s always talking about how much they loved chicken feet.
    The entire market and the vendors are a delight- I almost felt like I was there, too!

  7. I love visiting food markets-they’re always so alive with people and have so many things to see :)

  8. Carolyn Jung says:

    What an amazing array of wares from the seafood to the produce. And those rolls look to die for. Yum!

  9. All the food looks good, but I love yu tiao and have never had them that fresh before.

  10. tigerfish says:

    I enjoy fresh popiah anytime! Chicken feet reminds me of Chinese dim-sum. Yum!

  11. Great post! Thanks for taking us along with you. I wonder why I haven’t been to this market before.

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  13. I grew up as a teenager at Imbi Road area back in the 1970s. It was all government squatters back then. I knew the houses were all taken down to give way to the development of this wet market ,bus stations and other infrastructures. So much of info was shared here by ChopinandMysaucepan and it makes me eager to have a tour of this market.
    I will give an update and sharing after my tour. Thank you once again as it was very enlightening.

  14. Pingback: Exploring Kuala Lumpur During Chinese New Year - Aldrin Mercado | Aldrin Mercado

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