If you’re into food – particularly Chinese, Indian or Malay – a trip to Malaysia’s capital is an absolute must! I stayed for three nights and in that time managed to get a real flavour of Kuala Lumpur’s culinary melting pot.
I was lucky enough to be staying with a local host, so I got loads of good insight regarding the best places to go and stuff my face. Kuala Lumpur is also remarkably cheap (if you eat local) – so there’s no excuse not to try everything you can get your greedy paws on.
Food Tour Malaysia
I arrived in KL at around 5pm and fortunately had arranged to spend my first night on one of Food Tour Malaysia‘s highly-acclaimed tours. Our guide Charles was so passionate about the food of KL and he took us to areas I never would’ve heard about, yet alone navigated my way to, for some proper local grub.
Our first stop was a semi-covered market with lots of small stalls – each selling a particular food they specialised in. Charles told us the idea was to have a walk around and then sit down and have whatever you liked the look of from the various stalls. We firstly tried the traditional Malay breakfast dish, Nasi Lemak, consisting of rice, spices and a boiled egg served wrapped in a banana leaf. We also had a little bowl of crispy bits to sprinkle over it which was anchovies and cashews I think. Alongside this we had some satay chicken skewers, beef skewers, Otak Otak (literally translates to ‘Brains Brains’ – a mackerel paste wrapped in a banana leaf and barbecued) and burnt tofu – which I can only really describe as a sweet, treacly wad of delicious-ness.
Next we headed to Bansar for some authentic South Indian cuisine. Charles took us to a large restaurant called Devi’s Corner, which is apparently open all night, and we tucked into a variety of Indian delicacies – all served on a banana leaf. Perfect for sharing (if you feel like it). To be honest, I’ve actually forgotten what everything is technically called but there was a lovely fish curry sauce that had a slightly sour-hot note, a chicken curry sauce, some spicy chicken which literally blew my brains out but was very tasty and a variety of lovely puris.
Next Charles took us to a Pasar Malam (night market) in a local neighbourhood. This was really busy and there was not one tourist in sight, so I was sure we were onto a winner. Here we got to try the legendary durian fruit – which I had heard a lot about. As expected, it absolutely stank but actually tasted quite nice – despite repeating on me all evening. We also had these delicious wraps made fresh on one of the stalls filled with mince, onions and some other bits plus some amazing crispy waffle-pancakes filled with sweetcorn.
After a walk around Brickfields (Little India), our final stop was an unassuming Chinese cafe – Khong Lock Yuen. The three main nationalities in Kuala Lumpur are Chinese, South Indian and Malay so it was fitting to cover all three in our tour. Here we enjoyed a lovely broth of pork belly, served with chilli, garlic and rice. The combination of all four elements was delicious and the pork belly was extremely moist and tender.
This is the best thing I did during my time in Kuala Lumpur – it made for a fantastic introduction to the city’s food scene and also really helped me get my bearings regarding different popular areas for eating out. Charles was a great guide too and very informative when it came to the history of Kuala Lumpur and it’s food.
Vegetarian Buffet at dharma realm guan yin sagely monastery
After a wander around KL on the second day of my trip, I decided to visit a Chinese Buddhist temple recommended to me by my host – which is just a stone’s throw away from KLCC and the Petronas Towers. She said that, as well as being a beautiful and serene place to spend some time, there was an amazing canteen tucked away just behind it. The buffet is fully vegetarian and is extremely good value for money (my plate plus a lemongrass iced tea was 9 RM i.e. £1.60).
The quality of the food was absolutely amazing and the selection was massive. I can’t actually begin to go through what I ate as I sampled so many things, as you can see from the photo above. So you’ll just have to go to Kuala Lumpur and eat it yourself. Sorry (not sorry).
Pasar Malam, Little India
After my brief experience of a Pasar Malam with Food Tour Malaysia I knew I had to find another one if I could! Fortunately, on my last night, I went back to Brickfields and spotted one tucked away on my drive there. This one seemed to be less food-orientated and was frequented mostly by locals, in fact I don’t think I saw one tourist there (hipster traveller level = 1000). Eventually I did come to a small selection of food stalls. One was selling small Indian snacks and a very nice lady kindly explained to me what they were (I was obviously looking a bit lost). These small doughnuts were in fact savoury and came served with a spicy peanut sauce. They were delicious! I also got to try another pancake, this time a soft, fluffy version filled with sugar and corn.
Things to do in KL
One of the oldest permanent forest reserves in Malaysia sits right at the heart of KL, near KL Tower and just a short walk from where I was staying. The 200m canopy walk is well worth doing and there’s lots of information available about the reserve and it’s wildlife. It’s also a great place to escape the hustle and bustle for an hour. And it’s free!
If you’re on a budget this is a great way to see the city and get your bearings when you arrive. In fact, I ended up using this more than I used the LTR. They’re pretty regular, just be prepared for a bit of a squeeze during busy hours!
I love wildlife so a visit to the world’s largest free-flight walk-in aviary was a must for me. KL Bird Park is a nice way to spend a couple of hours (or even an afternoon if you go and check out the bird show). Loads of interesting species that I had never seen before and, in general, the birds seemed well-adjusted and happy. Entry is 69 RM for adults and 55 RM for children (up to 12 years old).
Dark Cave (Batu Caves)
To be honest, I had quite mixed feelings about my visit to the famous Batu Caves. It was sad to see the amount of pollution at this majestic landmark and I really disliked people teasing the monkeys, giving them plastic bags, junk food etc. However, about halfway up the steps to the shrines you can pay just 35 RM for an educational 40 minute tour of the Dark Cave – which is a conservation site. The guides are clued-up and passionate about the cave’s wildlife and geology – you’ll hear bats (and see lots of their droppings), see different types of rock formations and spot some creepy crawlies! Towards the end of our tour I spotted a long-legged millipede in a crevice (picture from Flickr above, ick!) – the cave is also home to the extremely rare trapdoor spider. All the profit from tours goes back into the conservation of the cave and it’s inhabitants. Please give it a visit!