“We are a food city. One that caters to the food-obsessed: one that alternates between street and traditional dining, at any budget and time of the day.
There are so many dishes that define us, from the contentious nasi lemak to the humble roti canai.
Loosen your belt – you’ve got much eating to do.”
– Time Out KL, July 2016 issue.
If there’s one thing I’ve gained in Kuala Lumpur, it’s kilograms. From mega malls to street hawkers, this city wheels and deals food tirelessly. Laksas, Pan Mee, ABC and Teh Tarik, KL’s food tapestry is as rich and colourful as its citizens. This is diversity; this is Malaysia.
Here are the venues I’ve visited that make my trousers tight (in no particular order).
Address: 14-16, Lorong Ara Kiri 2, Taman Lucky Garden, Lucky Garden, Kuala Lumpur, Bangsar, 59100.
Eat: Chicken Rice
Pro Tip: The drinks are sold from a separate vendor, so don’t be surprised if a guy comes up asking for ringgit for your Limon Ice Tea.
Chicken and rice may sound like a generic pan-Asian staple, but this isn’t it. This is CHICKEN RICE (sans ampersand) and it’s very, very Malaysian. For a plate of this national classic, head to this hawker on the corner of Bangsar’s Lucky Garden district. The rice is cooked in chicken stock, giving it a delicate saltiness that gels scrumptiously with the roast chicken. Sit on a plastic chair, embrace the vibe and dive in.
Address: 7, Jalan Tun H.S Lee, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Kuala Lumpur 50000
Eat: Curry Laksa or Dried Curry Mee with Iced White Coffee
Pro Tip: If the servers shout at you, it’s because they love you (I think).
In Malaysia, any man of senior age is respectfully referred to as ‘Uncle’. Women in their golden years are called ‘Aunty’. Kafe Sin Hoy How has earned a special nickname thanks to the colourful women who run the establishment; hard-working, no-bullshit grannies who scream at customers and each other to get things done. Don’t worry, they’re up for a banter too. Thanks to a rich, satisfying noodle menu and oodles of personality, this place has been up and running for over 70 years.
Address: 19, Jalan Sarikei, Pekeliling, 53000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutaun Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Eat: Laksa Sarawak for main, Ais Kacang for dessert
Pro tip: The bubblegum pink Sirop Ice drink goes down a treat here
Sarawak is a state in East Malaysia, distinct for its own political and cultural identity. On a similar note, Sarawak Laksa maintains culinary distinction for being lighter than other Laksas, allowing each individual component to the soup to rise to the taste occasion. For something sweet, Ais Kacang (lovingly nicknamed by locals as ABC) is a milky, crushed ice concotion with beans. Don’t knock it til you try it lah.
Address: Jalan 20/14, 46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Pro tip: Unbuckle your belt; this is calorie central.
Fried chicken. Coconut rice. A boiled egg. Peanuts. Anchovies. Sambal. These are the ingredients that form Nasi Lemak, the undisputed king of Malaysian national classics. This dish’s popularity makes competition extra fierce across Kuala Lumpur. Restoran Al Ehsan goes the extra mile by plating up distinctly sweeter sambal with finger-licking crispy fried chicken. This isn’t ordinary fried chicken. This chicken is served in salty, crispy floss of skin, giving you more and more to pair up with that rice. Dig in.
Adress: Jalan 21/11b, Sea Park, 46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Eat: Nasi Lemak
Pro tip: The waiters are known for having ‘tunnel vision’, so make extra effort to get their attention.
It’s common knowledge that there’s no such thing as ‘the best Nasi Lemak’. Each dish, while made up of the same essential parts, is unique from the rest. That said, you can forgo that hippy dippy philosophy and follow the mass crowds of locals who come to Bumbung. The sambal is spicier than normal, served with an unconventional (but not unwelcome) fried egg. If anything, visitors should come here for the experience alone. An entire street is used for seating, which makes for breathtaking culture shock.
Address: 43, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutaun Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Eat: Banana Leaf Lunch with Ice Lemon Tea
Pro Tip: Ask the waiters to match your curry sauce with your meat (it’s better this way).
Nothing says Southeast Asia like a waiter plonking a giant green banana leaf on your table. Sit down, say “banana leaf”, and be prepared for a Malaysian dining experience like no other. Like clockwork, servers come out with trays and pails that carry each component of your lunch: rice, curry sauce, potato, poppadoms, soup, raita, chili pickle and fried gourd (oh my god the gourd) form the gargantuan basis, while you’re free to pick a meat side. Wash this down with tangy Ice Lemon Tea and you’ll feel well and truly in Nirvana.
7. Fatty Crabs
Address: Jalan Taman Seputeh, Taman Seputeh, 58000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutaun Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Eat: Chicken Wings
Pro Tip: Get here early in the evening (6pm) to avoid massive queues.
Seasoned to moreish perfection, the chicken wings at Fatty Crabs are INSANE, salty and crispy with hints of five spice. This is a restaurant for the people; heaving and hot with the sizzling sounds and smells of the barbeque. Order sides of giant crab to share, a few Tiger beers and a LOT of tissues to wipe away the debris.
Address: 4, Jalan 27/70a, Desi Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur,Wilayah Persekutaun Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Eat: Chili Pan Mee
Pro Tip: If you can’t handle heat, scoop out some of the chili paste. You’ve been warned.
Not to be confused with Vietnamese Banh Mi (it happens to everyone), Chili Pan Mee is a Chinese dish that’s been fine-tuned to its blistering best in Malaysia. It’s a pretty little bowl of noodles that’s meant to be ruined; mix up everything into one pasty mess to bring it to its full foodie potential. The poached egg takes on a wonderfully mayonnaise-like effect, accenting the anchovies and meat while countering the hot chili. Jojo’s is particularly good (and generous) with its portions.
So that’s the best of my Malaysian food experience!
Kuala Lumpur is delicious destination, celebrating food at it’s most joyful.
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