Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is not my favorite city. It just isn’t. I can’t point my finger to why, it just does not have the same sort of allure to me as other Asian cities, like Hanoi or Hong Kong. It is almost a more “real” version of Singapore – both are big business and financial capitals, with tons of high rises, and lots of Muslim influences. But, KL is less sanitized than Singapore. KL is still not my favorite. But, I love seeking out locations and tips on where to eat in Kuala Lumpur.
A True Melting Pot of Cultures, and Food – Malaysia Truly Asia
So, why were we considering a move to KL? The food.
I am entirely enamored with the food in KL – from high-end restaurants (a little out of our budget) to mall food courts to hawker stands, Chinatown, Little India. It’s all so tasty, so cheap. It is a true melting pot of Malay, Indian, and Chinese foods that truly is worth experiencing. We spent our time there exploring where to eat in Kuala Lumpur.
Where To Eat on a Food Tour of Kuala Lumpur?
I’ve already espoused about the joys of soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung, with three locations in Kuala Lumpur, including one in the city center at Pavilion mall.
But there is more to KL than delicious soup dumplings.
Pelita Nasi Kandar
We ate at Pelita Nasi Kandar, at 149 Jalan Ampang, during our first trip to KL in 2009. It is just down the road, and in the shadow of, the Petronas Towers. Our first trip was confusing – it is always busy. There are food court style stands along the back wall, with menus above. But, before you even get there, you see a long line of locals standing at a buffet of sorts. We did not know what to do.
Essentially, you point to a few veggies, meats, or fish from the buffet, and the server places it over rice. Pretty simple, right? The key is to order a mixed curry. They essentially ladle a little bit of several different curry sauces all over your chosen meat and veg.
When we returned, we knew exactly what to do, and it was as good as I remembered. I love heading back to a restaurant in a foreign country. It makes me feel all warm and toasty inside.
My “usual” became a spicy, fried chicken, green veg, and some cabbage, all smothered in tasty curry sauce.
Tucked in the corner upstairs at Great Eastern Mall, 303 Jalan Ampang, Shyet-Li’s consistently does not disappoint. A traditional Malay, Halal, menu greets shoppers and office workers who crowd the limited number of tables each afternoon.
Although not near any tourist spots, and over a kilometer walk from the Petronas Towers, if you find yourself in the embassy district getting a visa, it is worth the walk down Ampang.
From curry laksa (noodle soup) to traditional chicken rice and tasty teas and juices, everything is stunning, served quick, and fairly cheap. Shyet-Li’s introduced me to roti jala, a spongey pancake rolled and served with chicken curry. I returned to Shyet-Li’s numerous times and the roti jalal was a must order appetizer, even if the servers were confused that Eric and I ordered three dishes during each visit.
A great find. We took the KL hop on, hop off tourist bus, which was a great way to re-orient ourselves to a city we had not visited for 3 years. When we arrived in Little India, we looked for a restaurant. We were with two little girls aged 3 and 5, who would not be accustomed to eating at the crazy curry houses that lined the main road. We struggled to find a decent looking, clean restaurant to bring the family.
Eric sniffed out Taj Garden, on Jalan Tun Sambanthan (make a right at the KFC sign). I was a little nervous because it was soooo much nicer looking than the rest of the locals joints, and I assumed it would be filled with tourists. But, we were not disappointed. We have eaten there a few times and everything was fantastic, including the Vindaloo, the Korma, and a dish called Chicken 65. Supposedly the original recipe called for 65 chilies per kilo of chicken. Hot stuff.
The best thing is how cheap everything is. In the States, Indian can be pretty pricey, but at Taj Garden, a veggie dish is about $2-3, and a meat dish about $4-5. A large meal for 4 adults and 2 children, where we ordered about 7 or 8 dishes, rice, naan, fruit drinks, and coffee came to about $35. Simply stunning.
Tang City Food Court
While wandering through Chinatown, just after Chinese New Year, we wanted noodles and pork, and Tang City Food Court, on Jalan Hang Lekir, delivered. We hit the branch stall of Koon Kee Wantan Mee, a Chinatown legend. Delicious pork hung from a rod. It was sliced up for wonton noodle soup, and some dry noodles with bbq pork. With some sliced chili peppers on the side, it was perfect, as the noodle soup dripped down my chin – always the sign of a good meal.
Lot 10 Hutong
In the basement of a shopping mall, at 50 Jalan Sultan Ismail, a developer built the quintessential food court, Lot 10 Hutong. Its an atmospheric food court, with over 30 stalls, most of which are branches of famous KL eateries, each with their own specialties, including bbq pork and duck, wonton noodle soup, dim sum, Singaporean specialities like radish cake, Korean dishes, and deserts like ice kachang, a crushed ice and fruit dish. We could go at least 2 or 3 rounds of food at Lot 10. And, walked out stuffed every time.
It was sitting at a crowded table at Lot 10 when I realized I could live in KL – so long as I was walking distance from Lot 10 (did I mention Din Tai Fung is across the street – heaven on a corner). I felt like I could create a laundry list of where to eat in Kuala Lumpur, and I loved it all!
Amber is a recovering attorney, yoga teacher, writer, social media consultant, and eater, traveling With Husband In Tow