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What $16 USD Buys in Live Fish, Organic & Healthy Food in Kuala Lumpur

Whether it was the mercado in Spain, street vendors in India or the everyday grocery stores in Asia, there has always been something about shopping for that first home-cooked meal in a new country that is so truly memorable …. and today was that wonderful day again! I’ve just moved to Malaysia for a new job and it turns out that buying healthy food in Kuala Lumpur is very inexpensive, even when it’s organic vegetables and live fish.

Today’s adventure started rather anticlimactically to be honest. I still have jetlag so I was up and at ‘em earlier than I would normally be on a Saturday and it turns out that my normal weekend routine and ‘the later the better’ preference suits my new home very well. I showed up just after 9am at the shops (and at Starbucks!) only to learn that neither opened up until 10am!

Since I’ve been eating pretty badly this past week, I stuck to the fresh food area of the market but I can’t wait to explore the bakery and every other part of it soon. I bought organic vegetables from local producers, Japanese farms, and other regions. They have fruit from California to right next door.

Given that so many of my fellow shoppers were Muslim it makes total sense that I didn’t see any pork but I really wasn’t looking too closely at the meat to be honest. After being inland in SoCal for the past 7 weeks, all I crave is fresh fish and seafood right now and man-oh-man this market did not disappoint! They had everything from fresh crab and cockles to enormous prawns and little anchovies. They had a large variety of whole fish, as well as several tanks of live fish that included tilapia, grouper, and carp.

When I lived in India I would buy live chickens from the halal vendors and it was amazing, and obviously so fresh! However, I’ve never bought a live fish outside of a restaurant in Hong Kong and that seemed like the perfect inauguration into normal life here in Malaysia.

The process of buying a live fish was really simple. I was asked if I needed help in Malay. I haven’t learned any Malay yet and my guy didn’t speak English so I gestured that I wanted ‘one’ and ‘small’ and he came around to the tank with a net, fished out my dinner, and then took it back to clean and gut it. The whole process took about 2 minutes and it cost a whopping 17 Ringgits (USD $4). I can’t wait to cook it up for din din tonight!

What you see in the group photo above is everything I bought and it cost me a total of 71 Ringgits (just over USD $16). The vegetables are all organic except the butter lettuce and basil. The fish was a live catch. And the fruit is all from local farmers but not organic. I couldn’t find any passion fruit, which broke my heart just a bit. And it seems to be that berries and avocados were the priciest items that I saw.

All in all a super fun first trip to the Aeon market. I was on the ground level at a shopping mall in Taman Maluri (very near the Petronas Twin Towers) where I was the only foreigner I saw at that hour. It felt like a very ‘local’ experience but honestly I had to giggle when I walked out with my groceries because the adjacent shops were a Baskin Robins, Famous Amos Cookies, and a Starbucks. And THAT definitely made me feel like I was back in California again!

XOXO Angela

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Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 37 countries on 4 continents, residing in 8 of them (currently Indonesia's Riau Islands is my home). I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!