dining under the train tracks

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if sitting down for a meal right underneath the train tracks sounds like a trip for the adventurous, then wangsa maju must be adrenaline centre for the food-venturous. specifically, it is the open-air dining area of restoran desa setapak, a corner kopitiam that's been in existence way before the tracks were built. when the wangsa maju mrt station came about, the tracks just happen to run right across and above the stalls and dining table. if thailand's maeklong market can continue to exist with a train running right through it, what's a bit of train trundling above one's head? (which you can hear but not see when sitting underneath)

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on balmy nights, it's a very comfortable dining spot and you hardly notice the trains. a small tree stands right in the centre, its roots deep underneath the tarred surface and with tiny red lanterns hanging from its branches, provides a bit of ambience. mostly though, it's the white flourescent lights from the more than 20 stalls, the nonstop movement from hungry diners deciding what to eat, hardworking hawkers working their respective stations and their foreign workers delivering food to the eagerly waiting that make up this unique setting.

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food wise, the stalls serve the usual fare - a good variety of noodles, western grills, thai stirfries, popiah, lor bak and the ubiquitous chap fun. the latter, a stall that goes by the rather complicated name (and contrastingly, bare facebook page) of sabor'z familia, offers a daily spread of more than 100 dishes (fried stuff make up at least 15 of them), including some lovely curries and meat dishes. but it is their kaarage-style vegetable fritters that is worth mentioning. well seasoned and chock full of cabbage, onions, carrots and spring onions with an aromatic, crisped skin and moist centre. it's a great snack to have on its own too. for leafy greens though, the vegetarian stall next to it does a much better job of retaining the natural flavours without drowning the vegetables in starch-heavy sauces. 

one stand-out is the popiah stall, parked against a cement column in front of sabor'z. there's a minimum order of 2 pieces and a choice of three variants: regular popiah, salad popiah (with a coleslaw-like filling) and seaweed-wrapped popiah (your choice of either filling). the regular popiah is excellent, fat rolls filled with well-braised julienned jicama that still maintain a bit of bite, finely diced omelette and tofu. if you like your popiah basah really wet, ask them to ladle over some of the jicama broth over the rolls. 

 

restoran desa setapak jln 14/27b, desa setapak, kl opens daily; usual kopitiam hours, typically from around 8am till late, with different stalls opening for breakfast, lunch and dinner find it if you're driving, just look for the wangsa maju lrt station. turn left right after the station and you will be in the cluster of shops with parking out front; restoran desa setapak is on your right, facing the main road. some cars park along the main road. if going by lrt, disembark at the wangsa maju station. upon exiting the station, the first restaurant you will see is a mamak; restoran desa setapak is right opposite it.