Hidden in an alley off Old Klang Road, this hole-in-the-wall serves fried sweet potato noodles and crunchy popcorn chicken

KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 — We can’t decide if these noodles are toothsome or titillating. The former because of what a good chew they require, the latter because of how sensually one eventually ends up slurping each strand, as though savouring sins were a virtue.

Why haven’t we heard of these fried sweet potato noodles before? They are to die for.

Sometimes some of the best things in life lie in plain sight. Yet too often we are in too much of a hurry to see what is just in front of us; we want to be done with our errand or our task and move on.

And so we miss out on the little treasures of life: a butterfly flitting past our faces; the crystal clear dew drops on petals after a night of rain; our reflection on the window of a parked car, more settled with every passing year.

The nondescript entrance to Restoran Puyuan is located in an alley off Old Klang Road.

The nondescript entrance to Restoran Puyuan is located in an alley off Old Klang Road.

These, and a meal we might never have had at all the secluded shops we never knew existed, all the nondescript entrances we never noticed.

This might be the rule rather than the exception. How would we know we had forgone a worthy addition to our repertoire of regular restaurants if we didn’t know we had even passed one by?

Here’s where having a cadre of like-minded (or like-bellied, rather) friends comes in handy. Gluttons of a feather flock together and all that.

Which is how I find myself in in a small alley off Old Klang Road. This is the Batu 4½ stretch, not too far from where I live; I’d come here from time to time to pick up packages from the post office over the years.

'Chao tong fun' or fried glass noodles (rice vermicelli).

‘Chao tong fun’ or fried glass noodles (rice vermicelli).

The only other landmark here is SJK(C) Choong Wen, a school further down the road. Not to mention the scarcity of parking. But that’s about it: hardly a place where you’d expect a hidden foodie paradise.

My friend shakes his head at every restaurant or shop I nearly venture into hereabouts. No, not this one. Nor this one.

It’s only when we enter the aforementioned alley (the first on the left as you turn in from Old Klang Road, across the street from the post office) that I observe the white washed walls with the nearly faded Chinese characters hanging over the doorway like a blessing or a charm.

Or a welcome.

The homemade chilli sambal and tofu.

The homemade chilli sambal and tofu.

For though it is my first time here at Restoran Puyuan, I am already smitten. True the space within is small, barely fitting more than half a dozen rickety plastic tables. We call this cosy.

We come early, just as they open for their dinner service so the full evening crowds (and inevitable wait for a table) haven’t appeared. Still, there are already a table or two of regulars tucking into their meals.

Everyone orders Restoran Puyuan’s signature chao shue fun or fried sweet potato noodles. Full of the requisite wok hei, these are glistening rectangles of semi-translucent noodles. The star of the show.

Which might then seem to be overkill to order another noodle dish but their chao tong fun or fried glass noodles (rice vermicelli) is a fully loaded wonder with prawns, meat and greens aplenty.

Packed tables inside this well-hidden hole-in-the-wall.

Packed tables inside this well-hidden hole-in-the-wall.

The thin strands of the chao tong fun absorb the moreish gravy even better than the chao shue fun, making us consider ordering a bowl of rice to mop every last drop. (We opted not to in the end, wary of overdosing on carbohydrates, a choice I now half-regret.)

Restoran Puyuan has simpler pleasures too. There are canisters of their homemade chilli sambal at every table. You would be wise to spoon out a generous saucerful to dip pieces of their fried homemade tofu in. Every deep fried morsel is golden on the outside, silky smooth on the inside, of course.

Customers keep arriving in tandem with our dishes. Even before our final dish is served, every table is packed with hungry diners inside this inconspicuous yet evidently popular hole-in-the-wall.

With good reason, too: as we tuck into our irresistible popcorn chicken, every nugget coated with crunchy oats, we can’t help but remark how good food is always worth waiting for.

Similarly, some of the best things in life lie in plain sight. (So we have said, so we now see.) These, we decide, are always worth looking out for.

Irresistible popcorn chicken coated with crunchy oats.

Irresistible popcorn chicken coated with crunchy oats.

Restoran Puyuan 檏苑小食馆

112, Batu 4½, Old Klang Road, KL

Open Fri-Wed 11:30am-3pm & 5:30pm-9pm; Thu closed

Tel: 018-298 0098

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