KUALA LUMPUR - A crowd was patiently lining up at a stall in Madras Lane, waiting to sink their teeth into a bowl of curry laksa that has been ranked No.2 on Lonely Planet's Ultimate Eatlist of 500 best eating experiences, beating sushi from Tokyo and the chilli crab from Singapore.
The wet market in a back alley of Petaling Street has three stalls selling the spicy dish, replete with tofu, cockles, vermicelli and noodles in coconut milk-based curry.
One of the stall owners, Chin Kim Fook, 60, was surprised when told that their curry laksa had made it into the ultimate guidebook for travellers and that it had recommended the hawker stalls at Madras Lane.
"I am happy about the news, but I truly believe that the experience of a particular dish depends on the person who tastes it.
"For me personally, I am content with the quality of my laksa as long as I can see that my customers enjoy eating them," said Chin, whose stall has been around for half a century.
Chin said he inherited the "secret recipe" from his mother, who started the stall, but added a few ingredients of his own.
"I judge the quality of my curry laksa based on the number of customers who regularly come back for it," he said proudly.
The Star's photographer Art Chen tasted the curry laksa and found the gravy, while less spicy than most, "very flavourful with that distinct taste of curry spice".
Karen Tang, 37, a frequent customer, is not surprised that the city's curry laksa was rated highly, judging from the consistent quality of the dish.
"The flavour of the curry laksa at Madras Lane is very rich and I love that it has a high dose of coconut milk," she said.
Her colleague, Shuenn Yng, 45, concurred, adding she came to Madras Lane for the variety of vegetables heaped onto the laksa.
"The Madras Lane curry laksa is famous for having an original vegetarian taste, and that's what keeps me coming," Shuenn said.
For Wong Yoke Wah, 66, his enjoyment of the curry laksa there went deeper than just its taste.
"It brings back memories. My father used to take me here when I was young," he recalled.
"There used to be a cinema screen for customers to watch films as you enjoy your bowl of curry laksa. It was a happy time for me."
Other Malaysian delights on the list are ikan bakar (60), assam laksa (123), beef rendang (268), wantan mee (299), kaya toast (352), roti canai (404), char koay teow (432), durian (445), Hokkien mee (464) and bah kut teh (468).