After spending two weeks with a total of 3 dining options in Tanote Bay we, and our bellies, were very excited to get to Kuala Lumpur. KL is the federal capital of Malaysia and one of the more diverse cities we’ve visited in Southeast Asia. The three main ethnic groups are Malay, Chinese, and Indian which is only important to me becaue it means I can get deliciously diverse food. If you’re interested in the cultural, social, or political dynamics of these peoples living together go read another blog because I can only tell you about how these three cuisines intermingled in my belly.
You’re probably familiar with Indian and Chinese food, but Malay food isn’t as common. At least not in the U.S. Malay food is like a marriage of Indian and Chinese cuisines, but I’d say it’s an unequal marriage because you can really see the Indian influence in the strong spices used in most dishes. If you didn’t know Malay food, you could easily mistake it for Indian. Popular Malay dishes include nasi lemak, satay, and nasi goreng. Just to name a few. Another popular cuisine in Malaysia is Nyonya food which came from the literal marriage between the early Chinese migrants and the local Malays parts of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. If you’re like me you’ll call it “Malaysian” food, but technically it’s a distinct cuisine with it’s own history and signature dishes. KL isn’t known for Nyonya food so if you want the best of this cuisine you will have to go to Penang or Melaka.
I love Indian food. I love it so much that if I couldn’t marry ice cream and cake I would marry Indian cuisine. Wait, who says I can’t marry ice cream and cake? I figured since same-sex marriage is legal food marrying should be too. Damn these religious zealots and their lies!
I’m less enthusiastic about Chinese food, but there are some great dishes in KL that you should try while you’re there. We were lucky enough to have a local introduce us to some of the best Chinese chow in KL.
Of course, when you’re in Malaysia you have to try Malay and Nyonya cuisine. These cuisines aren’t as well-known as their other SEA cousins, but we’re familiar with it because we’re from NYC where you can get pretty much every kind of food. We only managed to have Malay and Nyonya food a few times and unless I’m totally ignorant, I found the food in KL to be very similar to the food that we’ve had in NYC. I don’t have a picture of the popular Malay dish, nasi lemak, because we ate it almost every morning for breakfast at the hotel and didn’t think to snap a photo. Der.
Here’s the list of restaurants that we went tried in KL, but there are a ton of other places that we didn’t have time to visit, so we might have to come back.
Betel Leaf: Clean, proper restaurant, very tasty food, pricier than other places
Address: 77A Leboh Ampang, Kuala Lumpur
Sangeetha: Clean, proper restaurant, good Thali lunch special
Address: 65 Lebuh Ampang | Merdeka Square Area, Kuala Lumpur
Restoran Santa Chapati House: Clean, cheap, fresh chapati and roti
Address: 11 Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, Kuala Lumpur
Wong Ah Wah: Clean, delicious wings, salted egg squid is divine, good for sharing
Address: At the far end of Jalan Alor if you’re walking from the Bukit Bintang BTS station
Lai Foong Beef Noodle: hearty beef noodle soup with all manner of beef bits
Address: 138 Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, Kuala Lumpur (look for the stall with the Lai Foong name)
Lian Bee: Fantastic Hokkien Mee topped with raw egg
Address: On Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lok, opposite the Chinese style arch, about one block from Petaling Street
Shin Kee Beef Noodle Specialist: minced beef noodle with beef noodle soup set is excellent
Address: 9 Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock
Fat Brother: We didn’t like it much. Nothing special. Tourist trap.
Address: Stall on Petaling Street in Chinatown
Chinatown Seng Kee: Not recommended, salty and greasy food
Address: 52 Jalan Sultan, KL
Food court at Mid Valley Mall: Lots of choices, decent price, good if you’re in the area
ABC and Cendol Stand in Brickfields: Considered the best in KL, introduced by a local
Address: Beside 7-Eleven, Jln. Tun Sambanthan 4
Old China Cafe: Laksa was good, durian dessert was amazing, didn’t like the beef rendang, pricey
Address: 11 Jalan Petaling, Kuala Lumpur
Mei Keng Fatt: Not recommended, hard to get to, overpriced, poor staff
Address: 1, Lorong Awan 6, KL