Food - What & Where to Eat
Kuala Lumpur Guide
When you descend upon KL, the one
thing you must not miss out on is the FOOD. Get yourself involved in our
favourite pastime : Malaysians love to eat and we eat ALL the time. With our
multi-cultural social mix, you certainly can expect somewhat of a unique and
endless blend of cuisine. As far as the budget is concerned, you can eat fairly
well for fairly little in KL. Just head to the roadside stalls, especially noted
are those in Chinatown in the City Centre and Jalan Alor in the Golden Triangle.
Though mostly open only at night, have some of the greatest concentration food
stalls. Most shopping malls also provide food-courts that allows you to sample
Malaysian food in more hygienic conditions.
What to Eat
Primarily consisting of
Malay, Chinese and Indian food, it also has its hybrids derived from cross
cultural influences such as Mamak (Indian-Muslim) and Nyonya (the Malay-Chinese
The dishes have their distinctive spicy flavor, Chili, lemon grass, Pandan (screwpine)
leaves, daun kesum (polygonum or laksa leaf), kunyit (tumerc), bunga kantan
(wild ginger buds) are some of the spices used. There are many but some popular
dishes include -
Nasi Lemak ~ literally means 'rice in fat' in
Malay, the name is derived from the cooking process whereby rice is soaked in
rich coconut cream and then the mixture steamed. Sometimes knotted screwpine (pandan)
leaves are thrown into the rice while steaming to give it more fragrance.
Popularly eaten for breakfast among the locals, this dish consists comes as a
platter with cucumber slices, ikan bilis (fried anchovies in hot chilli paste),
roasted peanuts, stir fried water convolvulus (kangkong), hard boiled egg,
slices of boiled egg and cucumber, larger portions can include curry chicken,
beef or squid. Traditionally most of these accompaniments are spicy in nature.
Ikan Bakar ~ literally means "burnt fish" in Malay, its is fish or other
forms of seafood grilled using charcoal. Usually, marinated and then grilled;
sometimes with a banana leaf between the seafood and hotplate. Some of the
popular forms of seafood besides fish include squid (sotong) and stingray.
Nasi Goreng Pattaya / Nasi Pattaya ~ Made by covering or wrapping chicken
fried rice, in fried egg. It is often served with chili sauce, cucumber. The
name comes from Pattaya, Thailand.
Satay ~ Marinated beef or chicken pieces in skewers are barbecued over
charcoal and eaten after dipping into a sweet and spicy peanut sauce. It can
also be served with ketupat (rice cubes wrapped in palm leaves) and cucumber.
The variety of local Chinese food stems from the different parts of China from
which the early immigrants originated. Although Influenced by local ingredients
and dishes from other cultures, it remains distinctly Chinese. Most Chinese
meals have pork as their sub-ingredient, but due to the popularity and unique
taste of the actual food, there are chicken options available for the local
Malays (most Malays are Muslims, and Islam forbids them from eating pork). Some
Chinese food restaurants nowadays can be found serving halal or kosher food i.e.
food without ingredients that are forbidden by the Islamic religion. Outlined
below are some of the one person dishes that can be obtained -
Hainanese Chicken Rice ~ Rice cooked in chicken
stock and topped with steamed or roasted chicken.
Wantan Mee ~ Soup noodles with prawn or pork dumplings and thin slices of
roast pork or minced chicken.
Assam Laksa ~ A special from Penang consisting of thick rice
noodles in a
spicy and sour fish-based soup with pineapple, cucumber and onions. A sweet,
thick prawn paste may be added for extra flavor.
Char Kuey Teow ~ Stir fried flat rice noodles with prawns, cockles, egg
and bean sprouts
Dim Sum ~ Delicate morsels of specialties with over 30 varieties served
in round bamboo baskets. Includes steamed prawn dumplings.
Bak Kut Teh ~ The name literally translates as "pork bone tea", is a
Chinese soup that consists of a complex broth of herbs and spices (including
star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dang gui and garlic), boiled together with pork
bones for hours. However, additional ingredients may include offal, varieties of
mushroom, lettuce, and pieces of dried tofu. Light and dark soy sauce are also
added to the soup during cooking, with varying amounts depending on the variant.
It is usually eaten with rice, and often served with youtiao (strips of fried
dough) for dipping into the soup.
Local Indian cuisine can be divided into Northern Indian, Southern Indian and
Indian-Muslim (or Mamak) Cuisine. Northern Indian dishes are mostly meat based
and cooked with yogurt and ghee. Southern Indian cooking contains a liberal dose
of coconut, tamarind and curry leaves while Indian-Muslim cuisine features rice
and vegetables with rich, thick curries.
Northern Indian Food
Roti Chanai ~ A local favorite, this pancake is made out of wheat flour
dough which is stretched, layered and fried on a griddle. Variations include
Roti Telur where
egg is added, while Roti Sardin is filled with sardines.
Delicious when eaten with Dhall and meat curries or even plain with sugar.
Chapatti ~ Flattened bread made from whole-wheat flour and enjoyed with
any curry or served with Potato Masala, a chunk of mashed potatoes with
Naan ~ A healthier option, this fluffy and thick bread is baked on the
tandoori, a traditional clay oven
Tandoori Chicken ~ The chicken is marinated in a yogurt seasoned with
tandoori masala. It is traditionally moderately spicy. Cayenne, red chili
powder, or other spices give it its red colour. It is traditionally cooked at
high temperatures in an earthen oven (tandoori), but can also be prepared on a
Southern Indian Food
Cooking contains a liberal dose of coconut, tamarind and curry leaves.
Banana Leaf Rice ~ Rice served on a banana leaf (the first disposable eco
friendly plates), with an assortment of vegetables, curried meat or fish,
pickles, and/or papadum. It is traditionally eaten with the hand. Hands are
washed before and the right hand is used during the meal. The banana leaf is
used as it is believed that the hot rice will release the coating on the banana
leaf, which aids in digestion.
Thosai ~ A batter made from lentils and rice blended with water and left to
ferment overnight. The batter is spread into a thin, circular disc on a flat,
preheated pan, where it is fried with a dash of edible oil or ghee until the
dosa reaches a golden brown color. Then the thosai may optionally be turned over
on the pan, and partially fried. The end product is neatly folded and served.
Having a slightly sourish taste, it is served with dhall (vegetable curry),
coconut chutney or curry
Idli (pronounced Italy) ~ Made from lentils (specifically black lentils) and
rice into patties, usually two to three inches in diameter, using a mold and
steamed. Most often eaten at breakfast or as a snack, idli are usually served in
pairs with chutney, sambar, or other accompaniments.
Briyani ~ Rice dish from the made from a mixture of spices, basmati rice,
meat/vegetables and yogurt. The ingredients are ideally cooked together in the
final phase and is time-consuming to prepare.
Mamak or Indian Muslim Food
Nasi Kandar ~ White rice or briyani rice served with other dishes of curry
either with chicken, fish, beef, or mutton and usually with pickled vegetables
Maggi Goreng ~ A dish of fried Maggi instant noodles with flavoring (usually
curry), vegetables, egg, tofu and occasionally chicken
Mamak Rojak ~ Contains fried dough fritters, bean curds, boiled potatoes, prawn
hard boiled eggs, bean sprouts and cucumber mixed with a thick, spicy
Teh Tarik ~ Tea sweetened using condensed milk, and prepared using out-stretched
hands to pour piping hot tea from a mug into a waiting glass, repetitively. The
higher the 'pull', the thicker the froth. The 'pulling' of tea also has the
effect of cooling down the tea. A well-loved drink amongst Malaysians, teh tarik
is a form of art in itself and watching the tea streaming back and forth into
the containers can be quite captivating.
Where to Eat
KL has a good number of restaurants, some of them offering better food than
others. The Golden Triangle, Bangsar and Midvalley, Heritage Row and some areas
in Damansara and Hartamas are the usual places for people looking for a
In terms of ethnicity, Chinatown is the best place to search for Chinese food,
although all kinds of Chinese cuisine, from the simplest to the most
sophisticated, can be found all over KL. Head to Lebuh Ampang in the City Centre
and Brickfields for Indian food. Malay food can be found in Jalan Masjid India,
Chow Kit and Kampung Baru areas in the Tuanku Abdul Rahman district. Bangsar has
many high-end restaurants offering Western food. If you are dying for Korean
food, head to Ampang Jaya.
A lot of European, oriental and Middle Eastern restaurants have mushroomed
especially in Bukit Bintang and the Golden Triangle Area.
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