I feel like I know the food scene in Malaysia fairly well, a country that blends Indian, Chinese, and Malay influences so perfectly. But, when an opportunity came up to take a foodie walking tour of the city, with Food Tour Malaysia I figured why not?
I expected the tour to cover the basics of the foods I already knew, like roti canai, teh tarik, and nasi kandar, but hoped for at least a few surprises. By the end of the day, though, I had tried a bunch of things I had never tasted before and better understood the neighborhoods where we have walked numerous times before.
Kuala Lumpur’s Little India
We met our guide, Charles, at the Bangsar LRT station, and took the back roads into Little India, after stopping for a refreshing sugar cane juice at the train station. He explained some of the cultural and historical background of the neighborhood, immediately demonstrating the tour had more to offer than just food. At 11:30 in the morning, a few stalls were already setting up for the rotating night markets that are a center piece of each neighborhood around KL, for at least one night a week. I had no idea there were night markets that rotated around the city.
We walked through Little India, as the festival of lights, Deepavali, approached, and Charles explained the flower market, the produce market, and brought us to try tasty fried treats, which had always intimidated me, but now seemed more approachable and understandable.
We stopped at a South Indian curry stall that had been set up temporarily for the holiday, in what is usually a car park. The curry on banana leaf had a smoky flavor to it, because it was cooked over the open charcoal flames. Although traditionally eaten by hand, (and only with the right hand, as the left hand is generally used for other, non eating daily activities) we were offered forks. Eric and I refused them, though, and I ended up with slightly orange finger nails, showing that I was accepting of the traditional form of eating.
Additional fried treats followed – fried chick peas, friend bananas, and more, before a cool and refreshing cendol. I have tried iced kacang before, which is shaved ice with bright colored, fruity liquids, along with corn and kidney beans. But, cendol was new to me: shaved ice with coconut milk and green sweet jellies. I enjoyed it, although one member of our group wanted to have nothing to do with it. I happily finished his.
Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown
After visiting a Chinese Confucius temple in Little India, we made our way to an Indian Hindu temple in Chinatown, which is exactly what Kuala Lumpur is all about – the mixing of these traditional cultures. We caught the very tail end of a Hindu wedding, with the bride wearing about 20 kgs of clothing and jewelry. She walked laboriously around the temple on the hot day.
Then, Food Tour Malaysia took us to our final stop for some pork bao (steamed pork buns), a noodle dish called Kung Fu Chow, and a Penang style Char Kiew Tao with deer meat. The two noodle dishes were new to me, although I have had Singapore style Char Kiew Tao, generally with pork instead of deer.
The other members of our little tour group had not spent much time in Kuala Lumpur and seemed entirely pleased with the selection of foods, the tours of the neighborhoods, and the history that Charles provided. As for us, veterans to the KL food scene, I too was pleased. We actually were offered many things I had never tried before in KL, making it a huge success in my book.
We were supported by Food Tour Malaysia on our tour of the KL food scene, but all of my opinions are my own.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.