Kuala Lumpur is rich with food experiences, from street food, bustling markets, local and regional specialties, to fusion cooking from around the world. Cheap and with high hygienic standards, Kuala Lumpur will keep your hunger satisfied without hurting the wallet. Check out these 7 must try food experiences in Kuala Lumpur.
1. Jalan Alor: Top Food Experiences in Kuala Lumpur
If I’m going to recommend one of the best food experiences in Kuala Lumpur, it is Jalan Alor, a street that for its entire length is full of hawker stands and large open air restaurants offering every type of local cuisine worth trying as well as a number of others, including Vietnamese and Cambodian.
It is best visited at night when it is bustling, noisy, and the air is filled with great aromas from the grilling, frying, and boiling of all types of food. All that and the friendly but insistent staff inviting you to dine in their particular establishment makes for an enjoyable and tastebud pleasing environment.
I didn’t count the number of stalls, but it would take many visits to get close to trying the various options on offer. I’m sure most Malay-Chinese dishes are served here. If you do nothing else, arrive hungry. I visited three times and managed to try:
- Hainanese chicken rice at Restoran Lim Kee
- A whole grilled fish and the chilli lala (clams) at Restoran Mend Kee
- Wantan Mee, spicy pork (char siew) noodles, and chicken wings at Restoran Cu Cha
I had planned a visit to the “must try” destination of Wong Ah Wah, which reputedly serves the best chicken wings and ribs for many miles. Unfortunately, when I visited, it was closed due to the immediate area being a construction site. If it’s open when you visit, I suggest a visit based purely on the reviews alone.
2. Imbi Market
Imbi Market, now located at the Integrated Commercial Complex (ICC), is a great place for breakfast, especially on the weekends. I arrived early on a Sunday morning to be greeted with a busy, hot, and tightly packed group of food stalls with barely a spare seat in sight. Needing a caffeine hit, I headed straight for Ah Weng Koh Hainan Tea and, after securing a seat, ordered a mug of the Hainan tea, a mix of coffee, tea, and milk—also known as Kopi Cham.
Looking around the busy courtyard, I was struck by the cheerful atmosphere as family and friends caught up for breakfast whilst sharing loud conversations at one of the various food stalls. Options for the hungry include char kway teow (chicken and prawn with noodles), curry laksa, apom balik (sweet pancakes), and of course, nasi lemak.
There were two food stalls I wanted to visit so I took off to look for Ah Fook Chee Cheong Fun and SisterS Crispy Popiah. They ended up being next to each other, but the queue at Ah Fook Chee Cheong was fairly long so I settled for a couple of the crispy popiahs.
The SisterS Crispy Popiah stall (yes, capital S at the end of SisterS is correct) has been a family run business since 2001 when the stall first opened at the market. The popiahs are made at lightening speed, with the first step being to smother the skin with a paste made from hoisin sauce, chilli sauce, and fermented shrimp. Then a combination of roasted peanuts, deep fried shrimp, shredded lettuce, carrots, and cucumber, along with omelette, Chinese sausage, deep fried onions, and turnip are added before being rolled up into one delicious handheld piece of goodness. The flavours were amazing with a great texture. Not to be missed.
3. Valentine Roti
Valentine Roti is an Indian restaurant situated just outside of the city centre. It makes the claim of having the “best roti canai” in town and doesn’t disappoint with its large choice of roti.
I asked the waiter for his recommendation for two roti and he suggested I start with the half-egg roti canai and then roti Valentine, the house specialty.
The half-egg roti canai was light and fluffy with crispy edges, and was beautifully matched with the dahl, sambal, and mutton curry sauces. A great start, although I probably finished this dish off way too quickly.
Next the roti Valentine, named after the restaurant, was heavy and thick, with tuna being the dominant flavour. The roti eats just as well without the sauces, but it beat me in the end and I couldn’t finish it. A satisfying dish that would easily be enough on its own.
There are other dishes on the menu, but come here for the wide array of roti.
4. Yut Kee
Yut Kee is an institution in the Malaysian Hainanese style of Chinese cooking, where immigrant chefs from the Hainan region of southern China integrated their cooking with the styles of the Malay and Colonial cultures. Dishes typical of this style include kaya toast (toast spread with a coconut and egg jam), hailam mee (pork and prawns with noodles), chicken curry, and assam (spicy and sour) fish, all available on the menu.
But I came here for the signature chicken chop. A large piece of chicken (leg and thigh largely de-boned) battered and fried, served with peas, corn, carrots, onion slices, and crispy potato wedges, and drowned in brown gravy with a touch of Worcestershire sauce. A homely and satisfying dish and one I can imagine soothing the soul of the colonials back in the day.
Also on offer, alongside the marble butter cake, is the kaya swiss roll, both of which are available for takeaway.
5. Sze Ngan Chye
Early in the morning, Petaling Street, the main thoroughfare of China Town, is eerily quiet. The normally bustling streets are empty, with the only activity being the odd vendor pulling up the shop front roller door or a delivery truck or two dropping off a new supply of goods for the day’s trade.
I had one reason for arriving early and that was to visit the famed Sze Ngan Chye cart. Here, from the humble cart that has seen better days, you can buy the famed salted roast duck. The secret to the recipe is that prior to roasting the duck over charcoal, it has been marinated in salt. The Choong family have been operating this business for over 50 years and they sell over 100 ducks per day. You can buy the duck in one of two sizes, whole (RM52) or half (RM26), and it can be chopped into bite sized pieces upon request.
The duck meat itself was moist and succulent with a deep rich flavour, whilst the skin was sweet and crispy. It comes with “special” sauce but it is only required sparingly.
If feeling a little adventurous, you can also buy a duck feet parcel. This is essentially duck feet and liver rolled up in duck intestine and cooked off in a sweet sauce. The flavour doesn’t really change with each bite but the texture does as you move through the feet, liver, and the chewy intestine. For about 3RM, it’s worth a try.
Arriving early at Petaling Street means that you can be guaranteed your serving of duck as it usually runs out before 2pm. It also gives you a unique chance to wander about the China Town precinct, admiring the historical buildings and watching the small wet market in operation, all without the crowds and requests to buy the genuine/fake goods on sale later in the day.
6. Hakka Mee (noodles) at Chun Kee Tai Bu Mee
Taxi drivers tend to have good knowledge of cheap and tasty food and this was no exception. I was on my way to Pudu Market and the driver insisted that, rather than eating at the market as I had intended, I have breakfast at this outdoor food stall which sits on the corner of Jalan Sayur and the busy Jalan Pudu, about a five minute walk from the market.
Chun Kee Tai Bu Mee has been operating for over 80 years and although the rain was coming down heavy that morning, the stall was still busy and I ended up sharing a table with a couple of serious old ladies who were there for one thing and it wasn’t socialising.
I ordered the large serving of the Hakka Mee and before long a bowl arrived consisting of dry springy noodles that had been coated with lard, minced pork gravy, leafy greens, and succulent pieces of char sui—sweet barbecued pieces of pork. To top it off I added a heaped spoonful of pickled green chillies. Served alongside the Hakka Mee were three wan tans floating in a small bowl of aromatic clear pork bone broth. Delicious.
7. Ais Kachang
There are many refreshing desserts to either end a meal or take as a refreshing snack to ward off the heat in Kuala Lumpur.
The most well known is the Ais Kachang (also known as ABC—Ais Batu Campur, meaning shaved mixed ice), which consists of a mountain of shaved ice, served with red beans, green noodles, sweet syrups, and corn kernels, along with other toppings such as seeds, durian, or ice cream, depending on the street vendor.
This refreshing dessert is found all over and definitely one of the must try food experiences in Kuala Lumpur.
There you have it, 7 Must Try Food Experiences in Kuala Lumpur. Let me know in the comments below of any I may have missed. I will definitely be back to try more!
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