Kuala Lumpur is a pretty interesting city, relatively young only around one hundred and fifty years old with a multicultural population of Malays, Chinese, Indians and expats. Look past the smoggy skies and the building sites, – which are everywhere in their race to rival Singapore – and you’ll find a city of good tasting food. Penangites, used to their UNESCO world heritage listed city and tourists on food pilgrimages might sneer and look down on KL, one person I met in Georgetown said “If a hawker can’t make it in Penang, his food is not good enough and he will move to KL and be successful” but there’s plenty to take from this city. It’s different to Penang, in a good way.
Get your eat on.
Lot 10, collection of street food and hole in the wall style eateries in a food court in a highly stylised setting. Our favourite stalls are Chua Brothers Famous Fish Ball Soup which also sells Hokkien mee, Asam laksa & curry laksa which are all good & Duckking, with decent char siew pork and duck. 10-20MYR per meal. Song Kee, relative of famous old shop in Chinatown apparently sells excellent beef noodle soup.
Good quality ingredients and an excellent place as an introduction to the local food culture, but lacking the attitude of street food and ‘wok hei’ slightly overpriced experience without the usual fun of street eating, which – for me, at least – is watching the world go by. Great for wary tourists or those who want to experience something local without sacrificing sanitised conditions, or just a cheap meal in the Bukit Bintang area, which is otherwise full of bars and international restuarants.
Closest transport : Bukit Bintang Monorail Located in the basement of Lot 10 Shopping mall.
Another food court in the golden triangle is Food Republic, less stylised than Lot10 and looking a lot more like a conventional food court there’s a huge amount of stalls selling specialties from other Malay states as well as international options, fast food chains and a teppanyaki bar. Like Lot 10, a bit more expensive than the street options
Clostest transport : Bukit Bintang Monorail. Located at Pavillion shopping mall.
Central Market Food Court: came in here on a whim, and found the kopitiam in the middle sold laksa & prawn mee – We were surprised to find the prawn mee to be awesome, the laksa, of the Penang asam variation and had a great taste, spiced for malay palate – other stalls are mostly Thai and Indonesian style foods, Nasi Ayam (chicken rice) seemed popular with the clutch of westerners eating, but most patrons were Malays on their lunch breaks.
Clostest transport: Pasar Seni LRT. Located on 1st floor of Central Markets.
Imbi markets : Whilst it’s not a foodcourt, but an outdoor market it’s still a potentially worthwhile place to visit in the mornings for a breakfast – It’s really only likely you’ll bother to make the journey if you’re staying in the Bukit Bintang area, as it’s about a 10-15minute walk away from Bukit Bintang metro station & the city.
Opening times are 630AM – 12noon, but when I visited at 10AM, not much was open, whether this was due to the day of the week I’m not sure.
Clostest transport : Bukit Bintang Monorail. Located at Pasar Besar Bukit Bintang
Old China Café: Excellent Nonya laksa (amongst other things), in a beautifully restored shophouse on the edges of the bustling Chinatown : a good option if you don’t have time to get to Melaka. 11MYR a portion. Book a table for the evening to have a nice meal out.
Closest transport – LRT: Pasar Seni/Monorail : Maharajalela. Located on Jalan Balai Polis
Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock: A friendly and modern take on the traditional kopitiam, stripped away walls and clean lines with simple furniture and all the classics of mamak food. The staff are pretty attentive and the food and coffee and both good. Slightly more expensive than your average kopitiam.
Closest transport – LRT: Pasar Seni/Monorail : Maharajalela. Located on Jalan Balai Polis
Restoran Yusoof & Zakhir: Good teh tarik, tandoor chicken & well spiced kumpung rice but generally quite inconsistent with nasi lemak. Great value for money nonetheless.
Closest transport – LRT: Pasar seni. Located on Jalan Hang Kasturi
Hameeds Nasi Kampar Penang: Opens very early & closes very late run by jovial Indians, the Malay equivalent of a greasy spoon café, with honest, cheap food. With roti chanai and curries you cannot go wrong whilst people watching an ‘interesting’ cross section of society. Very close to Petaling street & the backpacking district.
Closest transport : Pasar Seni LRT. Located on Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lok, opposite Starbucks.
Maulana foodcourt : Nasi lemak in the more streamlined takeaway form (wrapped in banana leaf) but with good, if slightly sweeter sambal. A good range of curries, roti and drinks with helpful staff. Look for the parked taxis outside.
Good place to head for breakfast if you arrive early on a nightbus with time to kill, only two minute walk from Pudu Sentral
Closest transport : Plaza Rakyat LRT. Located at the end of the row of shops closest to the station on Jalan Pudu. Five minute walk from Chinatowns backpacker district.
Koon Kee Wanton noodle : A tiny little shophouse hidden behind the many stalls selling handbags, sunglasses and junk on Petaling Street, in the heart of Chinatown. ‘KL style’ with dark glazed soy noodles and char siew pork with wan tans. It’s been around for a very long time, it’s very popular with locals and they make everything by hand including the noodles and the wantans. Around 6RM per portion.
It’s hidden behind the hawkers, look for two red hanzi characters on a silver corogated background. Don’t be put off by the back to basics surroundings, they’ve been doing this a long time.
Closest transport: Pasar Seni LRT, Located on Petaling Street’s most northern section.
As the night falls, many restaurants appear in Chinatown with popup kitchens and plastic chairs spilling on the pavement. Our favourite, Restoran Han Kee outside the twenty four hour laundry on Jalan Sultan sells good claypot dishes, and cheap one plate meals. Lookout for the fishtank with frogs and eels out the front.
Closest transport: Pasar Seni LRT. Located on Jalan Sultan
South Indian Malay curry spread.
There’s loads of options all over the city, and expect to pay a little more than an average meal but it’s well worth it.
Vischaltchi Food and Catering in Brickfields was worth a trek, a little on the more expensive side, although the tandoor fish pieces were the highlight of the meal.
Closest transport: KL Sentral. Located on Jalan Scott
Devi’s Corner was also well worth hunting down in trendy Bangsar, full of coffee shops and bakeries. The fish curry was delicious and all the vegetable sides were fantastic – you get a little bit more for your money here than at Vischalcthi. Around 15-20MYR per person
Locals also recommended we try Sri Nirwana Maju, also in Bangsar but we didn’t quite get the chance.
Closest transport Bangsar. Located on Jalan Telawi 4
Restoran Kin Kin: Selling one very popular dish, chilli pan mee. A bowl of thick noodles, meaty ragu, ikan billis and a poached egg served with a wickedly spicy dry roasted chilli paste. It’s exceptional, good value & very popular with locals. A bit off the tourist trail but well worth seeking out & trying as a double hit with Yut Kee, a five minute walk away.
Less than 10MYR per serve, open seven days, between 7am and 7pm but closes earlier on weekends. Closest transport : Medan Tunku (monorail) but also a short walk from Dang Wangi. Located on Jalan Dewan Sultan Sulaiman.
Yut Kee: Had been trading since the 1920’s in the same shophouse until a forced move in 2014, The style, food and ownership have barely changed since it began and they serve traditional Hainanese style food, great marble cake, kaya roll and coffee. They also have roast pork dinner on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
A good stopping point for coffee and cake on a walk about the city, as well as main meals. The roti babi is the stuff of dreams. Big fat greasy delicious dreams.
Closest transport :Dang Wangi LRT station. Located on Jalan Kamunting.
little India is also home to a heap of options to eat simple Indian snacks and spreads, a good place to pick up Indian sweets as are the market stalls around the Batu Caves.
You can buy fresh fruit including all the tropical favourites from all over the city at little stalls, they are usually similar prices per kilo as the big food stores like Cold Storage you find in the malls, just be picky as they will try to offload the overripe first.
Cold Storage and Isetan are also good options for picking up pieces for a picnic, the Botanical Gardens, KLCC park & Mederka Square are all great options to laze the afternoon away reading and snacking. Isetan in particular is good stop to pick up sushi.
Unfortunately, due to visiting during Ramadan we didn’t really get a chance to sample the delights of Kampung Baru, the traditional, lowrise Muslim residential enclave of KL. It’s a great area to visit, just to see another side of KL, which isn’t all commercialisation and modernity. Another reason to visit is the availability of pop-up street food stalls which reputedly sell some of the best nasi lemak in the city, amongst other delights.
Ramly burgers are to KL like a hot dog to New York, the typical local fast food. The end product can vary depending on whats available but generally it’s a thin patty of chicken or beef with condiments and then wrapped in egg, served in a bun. Locals love them, the stalls are pretty much all over the city, several in the Chinatown area. Cheap, quick and affordable.
The transport network is great and you should never really need to take a cab, single journeys are between one and three ringgits. The LRT (red) line is very efficient and should cover most places you could want to visit. The monorail (green) line covers the gaps, but wait time seems to be a little longer.
There are also free GO KL! buses, which travel from Chinatown to Bukit Bintang and back.
words worth knowing!
Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamat tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih – Thank you
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry
Lagi – more/again
Whilst this selection is by no means exhausted it’s places we enjoyed hanging out, drinking teh tarik and eating on a budget in no frills kinda places, generally we just wandered into places for a teh tarik, and came back to eat if we liked the vibe.
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