Kuala Lumpur ~ Food
KL Visitors 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 mix). Of course you also have western, Mediterranean and Arab restaurants as well to choose from. There are also vegetarian food available in Indian and some specialised Chinese restaurants.

Malay Food
The dishes are "Halal" (kosher) and 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 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.

Chinese Food
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 Char Kuey Teownoodles 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.
More on Chinese Noodles and Dim Sum.

Indian Food
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 Roti Chanaiegg is added, while Roti Sardin’ is filled with sardines. It should be fluffy and not hard and is delicious when eaten with the milder 'Dhall’ or with spicy 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 vegetables.

Naan ~ A healthier option, looking somewhat like a plain pizza, 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 traditional grill.

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 ~ Also spelled as 'dosai', is 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 'dosai' reaches a golden brown colour.

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, There is a thinner, crispier version called simply, 'paper tosai'.

Idli (pronounced Itly) ~ 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, dhall, or other accompaniments.

Briyani ~ a well known 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 and Teh Tarik.

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 fritters, hard boiled eggs, bean sprouts and cucumber mixed with a thick, spicy peanut sauce.

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 visitors for a restaurant meal.

In terms of ethnicity, Chinatown and Jalan Alor (near Bukit Bintang) 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.
For Indian Food, head to Lebuh Ampang in the City Centre and Brickfields.

Malay food can be found in Jalan Masjid India, Chow Kit and Kampung Baru areas in the Tuanku Abdul Rahman district.

Bangsar, as well as Changkat Bukit Bintang has many cafe's and 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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