One of the great things about Kuala Lumpur is the variety of ethnic cuisines on offer. There are, of course, a myriad of Chinese, Indian, and Malay cuisines. But there are also food outlets catering to immigrant workers in Malaysia that offer authentic versions of Nepalese, Burmese, Indonesian, Pakistani and Afghan (so I've heard), and Thai food.
On Sundays Petaling Jaya's Thai Buddhist temple was the place to find the latter (see a local blogger's write-up here). From early morning till mid-afternoon Thai workers and Malaysians of Thai descent flocked here to pray and make merit and then to stock up, from mobile vendors, on foods trucked down from Thailand: Thai mangoes and sweet Phuket pineapples, hard-to-find Thai fresh herbs like cha-om, freshly made khanom jeen and the go-with curries not often offered at Thai restaurants around KL, like gaeng tai plaa (southern fish kidney curry) and ngam niaow (northeastern-style beef or pork curry with tomatoes), dried Thai chilies and other spices and ingredients like fragrant ma khwaem (a variety of Sichuan peppercorn), kapi (Thai shrimp paste, so different to Malaysian belacan), and stinking-to-high-heaven plaraa (a budu-like chunky, super-fermented fish sauce).
Prepared food was eat-in (on the grass behind the carts) or takeaway, and the mood was always festive - friends meeting up for the first time in weeks, factory workers and maids enjoying their day off, families gathering for a taste of home, a farang (me) enjoying the vibe and trying in vain to keep her rapidly rusting Thai up to speed. In true Thai style, it was smiles and jokes all around, with plenty of snacking in between.
No more. Yesterday police broke up the fun and chased off vendors and customers; the word is that PJ's Thai temple will be the site of once-a-week food-focused merriment no longer.
My tax dollars at work? With any luck future foci of police sweeps will include mobile vendors in other parts of the Klang Valley. You know what I mean, those social order-disturbing sellers of pisang goreng, fresh yogurt, putu malam, and Chinese sweet soups.