Planning on travelling to Malaysia in the year 2021 from Pakistan? Exploring local cuisine of Malaysia must be on your list as Malaysia offers an amazing mix of cuisine from the rich cultural mix of the population. Malaysia is the number one destination for honeymooners from Muslim countries. Therefore, halal food is commonly available in all parts of Malaysia.
The ethnic group of Malaysia is Malay, followed by Chinese and Indian. The food of Malaysia is a good mix of these major population groups. However, being an international destination, Malaysia is also home to world-class restaurants catering to an international palate.
I will explore some local food of Malaysia and popular local restaurant chains across various suburbs of Kuala Lumpur.
Nasi Lemak is the national dish of Malaysia. To understanding Malaysian taste, you will need to understand the staple diet of the country which consists of rice and noodles. Nasi Lemak is white rice served with chicken curry, anchovies, cucumbers and fried peanuts. Local varieties of sauce called Sambal is very popular and goes with most dishes either rice or noodles. Seafood is very popular in coastal towns as well as all large cities. Local varieties of fish include pomfret, tilapia, snapper and king mackerel. Nasi Kandhar Pelita is a very popular chain of restaurants operating across Malaysia. Tamarind sauce, fish sauce, shrimp paste and sambal are common ingredients on most popular dishes on Malaysia menu. An average serving of Nasi Lemak may cost around RM10 or lesser.
Pakistani palate is not as familiar with sharply flavoured sauces and cooking pastes. However, a number of curries cooked with herbs are quite close to Pakistani taste. Coconut milk has used a base in a number of curries cooked with chilli paste. Nasi Kandhar Restaurants are most closed to Pakistani cooking style as they borrow ideas from Arab and Indian cooking style. Indian or Pakistan restaurants are generally more expensive in Kuala Lumpur.
The most popular food in Malaysia
Other must-try dishes during your stay in Malaysia includes Me Goreng (noodles fried with shrimps, me kecip, tamarind paste, shallots and meats), Satay Chicken (chicken on skewers served with peanut sauce), dosas and rotis (flatbread filled with potatoes, eggs or onions).
Jalan Alor is the food street in the middle of Bukit Bintang
Nasi Kandar Restaurants are closer to Pakistan taste and you will be able to find a good mix of rice dishes, parathas (roti) cooked in various styles. Popular roti type is roti planta, roti telur ( roti with egg) which normally friend over a flat hot-plate. Teh Tarek (tea) is a local style of making tea with Malaysian variety of tea leaves and evaporated milk.
My favourite dish on arriving in Malaysia is roti telur tea Tarek. NM Curry House is a popular chain with a branch on KLIA2. Being a south Indian chain, NM Curry House also serves south Indian specialities including dosas (flat rice break) with a different kind of filling served with coconut sauce and curries. Popular dosas include potato fillings and served with a mix of Indian pickles.
Nasi Kandhar Pelita is another popular chain of restaurants with branches across the country. In Kuala Lumpur, the main branch is in Jalan Ampang opposite to Corus Hotel. This restaurant is walking distance for Petronas Tower.
The Chinese population in Malaysia has brought a good mix of noodle dishes served stir-fried or in soups. Malaysia shares a border with Thailand on the Northern tip in peninsular Malaysia. Thai influence in cooking style can also be observed in many popular dishes.
Exploring Food Street in Jalan Alor, Changkat and Jalan Ramalee
If you visiting Kuala Lumpur, staying in Bukit Bintang area should be on your list, as this is the heart of tourist activities in Kuala Lumpur. The famous "Food Street" Jalan Alor is located in Bukit Bintang. I have visited this interesting location plenty of times and tried a wide variety of local cuisine. If you like grilled food, grilled chicken wings are a speciality on 1 Jalan Alor.
Food Courts are available in all major shopping centres in Kuala Lumpur where you can find a good mix of local food and drinks. Berjaya Times Square Shopping Malls has a very nice food court on the basement level. You can buy meals under RM10 by purchasing a food court and fill it up with credits. Mostly foodcourts in the shopping meal are ideal to get a quick meal at a very cheap price. Restaurants and western fast food joints are relatively expensive.
Foodcourt in Berjaya Times Square Shopping Center in Bukit Bintang
A number of Thai seafood restaurant are very popular on Jalan Alor attracting large crowds of Asian tourist. Most Thai dishes include seafood cooked in various sauces or served in steamboats. Different parts of Thailand have different cooking styles.
Just around the corner from Jalan Alor, Changkat Bukit Bintang and Jalan Ramlee is home to a number of middle eastern restaurants as well as fast-food joints.
Nyonya Food in Kuala Lumpur
Nyonya Food is a mix of Chinese and Malay resulting from cultural intermarriage in the early 20th century. The result is an amazing cooking style called Peranakan or Nyonya. One of my favourite Nyonya restaurants is "Precious Old China" located on the first floor of the famous central market near Masjid India. This location is a must-visit for the food lover who wants to experiment with unique curries and vegetables cooked in traditional sauces.
I fell in love with vegetables cooked in belacan sauce. Belacan is kind of a shrimp paste using in the cooking of Nyonya dishes. Other popular dishes include laksa Assam prawns and fish head curries. Durian desserts are to die for. Precious Old China serves a special santan durian dessert which is topped with fresh cream and paste of three different varieties of durian.
Pudu area in Kuala Lumpur is located adjacent to Bukit Bintang. Pudu is home to a number of local Chinese restaurants including the popular Sek Yuen. This is the only establishment that makes crispy skin duck in the traditional style over charcoal. The food represents the flavours of the bygone era of early Chinese settling in Kuala Lumpur. Braised lamb, crab meatballs and a number of other Cantonese dishes are cooked to perfection at this popular Cantonese restaurant.
Pudu is a great place to enjoy a wide range of Chinese food at very affordable prices.
Explore some local cuisine in Pudu near Furama Hotel
Bangsar is another interesting neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur City. Bangsar is popular with ex-pats and a number of modern restaurants, cafes and bars cater to the uptown crowd. However, there is a good mix of traditional as well as modern eateries. Sri Nirwana Maju is a popular south Indian banana-leaf restaurant that attracts large crowds. I enjoyed the deep-fried chicken and fish served with a number of curries and pakoras on a banana leaf.
This restaurant is a must-visit if you like Indian food. Some of the popular cake and pastry shops have opened branches in Mid-City Malls. If you want to sample local flavours, the shopping Malls is must-visit for shopping, kids activities and trying out some of the popular joints like butter and Antipodean Cafe.
Bangsar Village has a very lively ambience is a great place for shopping and trying local cafes.
A number of buffet restaurants are located in 5 Star restaurants in KLCC. Mosaic in Mandarin Oriental, Contango at Majestic Hotel and Lemon Cafe at Shangrila Hotel are quite popular.
KL Pavilion in the heart of Bukit Bintang has a large number of international chains and local restaurants. The Pavilion Shopping Malls is a great place to shop and enjoy the local cuisine. Dolly's Dim Sum is a great place to enjoy local Asian food including congee, prawn delights, Har Gow dumpling, egg tarts and rice dishes. Ground Floor has a number of popular bars and Burger joints.
Sri Nirwana Maju in Bangsar - Bangsar Cafes and Pastry shops
Most enjoyable and random eating out experiences are roadside cafes across the city and hidden spots recommended by local cab drivers. I tried a nice soup shop located adjacent to Shangrila Hotel in Jalan Ismail. The shops' speciality is lamb soup. This location is a must-try for meat lovers.
A stay at Trader's Hotel by Shangrila is a memorable experience. The chef at Chit Chat Gobo cafe is famous for making Oxtail Soup. Mandarin Oriental Hotel is located at walking distance from Shangrila. The decor of this amazing establishment is decanted and food choices amazing serving some of the most eclectic mixes of Western as well as Malay Food. Enjoy an amazing buffet at Mosaic or just relax in the main lobby at high tea to enjoy expresso with marzipan and macaroons.
Yut Kee is a somewhat of a foodie tradition in Kuala Lumpur. This amazing restaurant is located at walking distance from Menara KL. The cafe serves some unique dishes including chicken chops in gravy, braised beef in noodles, rice and noodle dishes. The second-generation cafe still attracts large crowds at brunch and lunchtime. The food is quite affordable and the service is great.
Yut Kee at Kuala Lumpur
During my first visit to Kuala Lumpur some fifteen years ago, I explored the Klang fishing village by catching a train from KL Sentral to Port Klang and then catching a ferry to Klang Island. This location is popular for seafood and attracts large crowds over the weekend. Local varieties of seafood include fish, crabs and prawns.
Middle Eastern Food is particularly popular in Ampang area has there are a number of serviced apartments on Jalan Ampang that are popular with Middle-Eastern families staying for a longer period. Sahara Tent and Hazrat-ul-Muth are two of my favourite restaurants serving authentic middle eastern cuisine. These locations are also popular for shisha lovers.
For seasoned travellers to Malaysia, the culinary adventures begin at the breakfast time. Most 5 star hotels offer a great mix of local and international dishes to satisfy a large number of guests. Some of the best breakfast menus are offered by Hotel Istana in Bukit Bintang and Concorde Hotel in KLCC.
Concorde Hotel is my all-time favourite with a huge menu of Malay and continental cuisine which is sure to give a head start to your day in Kuala Lumpur. Choosing a 4-5 Star hotel in KLCC or Bukit Bintang is a good tip if you planning to travel to KL for the first time.
Breakfast at Hotel Istana in Bukit Bintang
I have already short-listed a few more places to explore in my next trip to Kuala Lumpur.