Jalan Bellamy: Where the Locals Make Excellent Ikan Bakar
“Go to Jalan Bellamy and don’t forget to try the ikan bakar!” the taxi driver cheerfully suggested. He seemed pretty excited about suggesting the place, therefore I immediately had my hopes up. A quick Google search had confirmed that people do recommend Jalan Bellamy for excellent grilled seafood. It was our second week in Kuala Lumpur and I wanted to see for myself what the fuss was about.
Behind Kuala Lumpur’s grand Istana Negara is a hill that is a seafood lover’s heaven. A cloud of smoke hangs in the air that smells of belacan or shrimp paste. The place gathers a hungry crowd lured by the delightful sizzle and aroma of barbecued seafood.
My regret is that I did not go to this place more often during my stay. If you’re a first time visitor, just Grab a cab and the driver will know where to take you. There’s actually a spot going uphill where you can get a view of the city. You’ll also drive past impressive mansions that look like they belong to members of the royal family.
There is no dedicated parking spot, therefore the roadside is always lined by cars parked by customers. I find it easiest to get there by cab. Likewise, it was a breeze booking a Grab taxi on the way down to the city center.
The stalls at Jalan Bellamy are permanently wrapped in a cloud of smoke heavy with seafood aroma, therefore picture yourself in a sauna of fumes produced from the grill. I would not recommend this place for lunch if you have to return to your office or school afterward. Your clothes and hair will tell others where you’d been for lunch!
Nothing fancy here! Just simple, extremely delicious food.
There’s no concept of table reservations, obviously, therefore come early for lunch. Tables are occupied on a first-come-first-serve basis. When you first arrive head on over to the grill, pick a plate, and select whatever you want from the grill. There are a couple of huge plastic containers for the sauces. Grab a bowl and ladle the sauces you need.
Walk over to where the huge rice cookers are. Scoop as much rice as you need. There’s a nasi campur style buffet on one side. Steamed and sautéed vegetables, chicken curries, fried chicken, fried chicken liver, coconut-based gravies, and so many other dishes make the buffet.
Masood and I obviously looked clueless because when we arrived the nice fellow standing next to the huge grill plate immediately determined that we needed help. This is a self-serve place, however, he took a plate himself, helpfully suggested that we try the grilled tilapia and squid, and filled our plates himself. He also helped us with the sauces.
He was also the only person on the staff that spoke English.
Ikan bakar literally means “burned fish” in Malay and Indonesian. Ikan bakar is an Indonesian or Malaysian dish of charcoal-grilled fish or other forms of seafood. In this case, the name is misleading because the fish is not really charcoal-grilled. Instead, it is cooked on grill pans or hot plates.
The seafood is marinated and grilled. Bright orange-red chili sauce is splashed on the fish and squid as they roast. We believe it’s this sauce that is the secret that entices and draws the crowd to Jalan Bellamy. I noticed that squid is roasted directly on the pan while fish is wrapped in a banana leaf before being cooked.
You must eat the fish or squid with the sauce, or sambal as they call it. You also must dip your freshly-grilled fish in the soy sauce-calamansi-onion-chili sauce. They all just go together so well! Please note, however, that these sauces are hot. Be careful if you are not used to spicy food.
Masood and I were the only tourists that day. I was the only person taking pictures of the food. So yes, there were a few curious folks discreetly observing us with mild amusement. A couple of very friendly ladies came to ask what we wanted to drink. They did not speak English so there was a bit of a communication problem. Fortunately, we got our drinks correctly. They also calculated our bill by looking at the food in front of us on the table.
The fish was delicious. The skin was burnt to a crisp and the flesh was soft, tender and moist. The squid had a texture not different from chicken, its flesh easily pulled away in stringy yet ever so tender pieces.
Masood does not eat squid; he tried but did not like it. This means I get to eat it all by myself. It’s nice to not have to share sometimes.
These stalls are usually open for lunch and are closed by 3pm. I forgot to ask if they open for dinner. Get here early or you will have to wait for a table! Wear something light and comfy. It gets hot and sticky. Bring a hand sanitizer as well. Order fresh juice with ice to cool yourself. Grab a seat that’s close to an electric fan. Oh, and do try their shrimps, too.
While I do not remember the exact prices, I do recall telling Masood that the prices at the food stalls here aren’t exactly cheap, specially considering that these are self-serve food stalls without air-conditioning. Regardless, the fresh food is worth the price and this is definitely a must-visit place specially for those who love seafood.
Ikan Bakar Medan
50480, Kuala Lumpur
GPS Coordinates: N3 07.835 E101 41.686
For those who live in or have visited Kuala Lumpur, have you tried Ikan Bakar in Jalan Bellamy? How was your experience like? Any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!