Postcard Kuala Lumpur: Jeepers peepers

There's something alien in the chicken noodle soup. Our 10-year-old daughter extracts it with a spoon and examines it, incredibly calmly when you bear in mind it just came out of her bowl and resembles a prop from a 1970s horror film.

Her sense of scientific detachment is impressive.

"It's ... an eyeball!" she announces.

This is hardly likely, I say, providing the voice of reason, and moving in for a closer look.

"I really don't think anyone would ... oh!"

Indeed, it does appear to be spherical, possibly ocular, and presumably from a chicken, though none of us is qualified to make that call.

Neither will any of us eat it. So it goes on to a small plate next to the chilli sauce, and our 10-year-old, to her credit, goes back to her soup, which she declares to be delicious, despite (or possibly because of) its mystery ingredients.

Meanwhile, in a disturbing development, the eyeball (if that's what it is) appears to fix its gaze on me. I move my head to the left, and to the right. Up. And down. Sure enough, this thing is following my every move.

"Are you all right, Dad?"


"Yes, yes. Just ... looking for mosquitoes."

This causes raised eyebrows. I'm grateful the eyeball hasn't got any of those.

We are on Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur's famous eat street, where locals and tourists throng after dark to sit at plastic tables outside Chinese cafes and tuck in to an incredible variety of food.

From satay skewers to frog porridge, the familiar and bizarre are in abundance, and it's a wonderful thing to give my kids their first taste of Asia, where for three hot, humid nights we have sat in this street of plenty beneath a canopy of red and yellow paper lanterns strung from power lines.

They absorb it all: the smells, the chatter, the hawkers, the monk asking for alms and the dwarf pushing his karaoke machine up the street, singing Malay pop songs for the diners.

Parts of KL have been transformed into gleaming modernity with enormous shopping centres that are shrines to designer labels but here, and in other backstreets, can still be found the "real Asia" (or at least our conception of it), complete with all the foreignness and excitement that entails. The children take it in their stride.

However, for the younger ones, foreign country or not, there's only so much experimenting they are willing to do.

Our seven-year-old son is eating squid for the third night running and is in danger of developing tentacles.

Our three-year-old daughter also likes squid but "only the outside bit" (the breadcrumbs), which are in short supply around these parts, so she's having rice for the third night in a row. She's also asleep by the end of dinner, so I carry her to our hotel, past the durian stalls, through the smoke from the fish barbecues and beyond the restaurant spruikers and tourists posing for photos with the karaoke singer.

I'm hoping the eyeball will lose me in the crowd.