For me eating in Malaysia is all about the hawkers. You can sit in a restaurant if you want but for the best value, and in a lot of cases equally as good food, then eat from a stall. Half the cheap restaurants you go to are just shells with a couple of hawkers in anyway, some of the proper restaurants started as stalls and got such a following they could move to bigger, more permanent premises. You also get big collections of hawkers in one place, I've been to the centrally located tourist haunt of Jalan Alor a few times and touristy or not I love it.
SS2 is another one of them, far away from KL center in the satellite town of Petaling Jaya, with a more varied selection than the heavily Chinese Jalan Alor and without a tourist (except us) in site. One of the advantages of having a half Malaysian girlfriend is her cousin sticks us in the car and takes us to all manor of fantastic food places that we just wouldn't see otherwise. The locals are such fantastic dinner companions too, whilst one needs to be in select company at home if you want to talk about food relentlessly here everyone is happy to chat away. They're all so knowledgeable too, recalling dish after dish and meal after meal where they were cooked well. We've got a little trip planned to Penang with them in a couple of weekends time, as many say its the best food in Malaysia I can't wait. We've spoke of going for more than 3 meals a day when we're there just so we can fit it in.
I'm getting ahead of myself though so back to SS2. This place must be over 100m long and every 2m-3m on each side is a new stall all specialising in something, whether it's roast meat on rice, claypot, steamboat, Indian, Malay, Nyonya, economy rice and so on and so forth. You can order multiple things from multiple hawkers and they all turn up at your table within minutes. It's truly amazing. Taking advantage of this we had a mix of meat and rice (the gf roast pork, roast chicken for myself) from a Cantonese stall and some more Malaysian delicacies with stingray, la las and local vegetable.
Chicken rice is a very popular dish over here and comes both boiled and roasted. Either way the rice isn't as plain as it looks, being cooked in chicken stock (from the boiled birds) flavoured with lemongrass and the fragrant pandan leaf. For dipping I was given a really fresh tasting chili sauce, strong with fresh ginger and lime. The local vegetable (that's what they call it) was something I'd had before, although then it was called Sabah vegetable, but then I was in Sabah. It reminds me of pea shoots a bit, with more iron thrown in, and here it was given the belacan treatment, so spicy hot and pungent with fermented shrimp.
The la las (clams) and stingray are other popular local dishes I've had before and they're rather special. The stingray is reminiscent of skate, long striations of soft flesh kept moist by the gluey, cartilaginous bones which are edible in their own right - if you don't mind the crunch. It's simply marinated in turmeric, giving a yellow edge to the white fish, and then charred on a hotplate, the same kind of thing they cook crappy sausages on for drunken revelers in London. The results are somewhat more appealing though. It's served with sambal, a sauce of chili, lime and belecan - the fermented shrimp paste so common over here - which goes nicely. It's a very impressive dish.
The clams went by the name of la la kamheong and we think (well my local companion thought) the sauce is curry leaves, chili, dried shrimp, belacan, thick black soy sauce and a little sugar. It's fiery and pungent, like a lot of Malaysian food, but the la la stand up to it well. The plate was empty by the end.
All these dishes are easily available from hawkers all over Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur has about 50,000 registered hawkers) and so even if you don't make it to SS2 they should be on every to eat list when visting here.