If I were a good travel blogger I would tell you that my desire to travel is fuelled by the prospect of experiencing new cultures, meeting people from all across the world, and seeing all the sights that our amazing planet has to offer. (These are valid reasons for why I travel, but humour me.) However, I can’t tell you all these things, because for me there is one reason that trumps all these reasons, and that is…my stomach. Yes! I am a traveller motivated by all the amazing foods on offer across the globe, and I am intent on filling my belly with as many of them as I can before I return to the ground (and hopefully turn into something tasty like a raspberry or a kiwi).
It is for this reason that, quite unsurprisingly, I did not go hungry during my time in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, I was fit to burst for most of my waking hours, a fact that is a little shameful but something I do not regret. I tried authentic versions of foods I have had before and brand new dishes alike. I ate at street food markets, shopping centre food courts, and even had afternoon tea at a revolving restaurant at the top of Kuala Lumpur Tower. I was lucky enough to experience no food poisoning during the entire trip! And my belly was happy. Very, very happy.
The variety of food available in the Malaysian capital is almost overwhelming – the city is a melting pot of races and cultures – but it was an absolute treat to have so much to choose from! I enjoyed the culinary scene so much that I just had to share it. So here is a collection of all of the things that I ate during my time in Kuala Lumpur! Well, almost all of it – some of it went straight down my pie hole before my camera (or boyfriend) could get even a sniff of it…
This was the first thing that I ate after arriving in Kuala Lumpur! My boyfriend and I got to our AirBnB apartment, showered, changed and headed out to Jalan Alor for some grub. I remember the first Malaysian food I ever tried was back in a restaurant called Malaysian Delight in Birmingham, UK, and I absolutely loved it, so I was insistent that it be my first meal of the trip! It was just as good, if not better, as I remembered it, and I demolished it all, despite the vertigo I was experiencing.
This was the first thing I ate for breakfast (well, lunch) in Kuala Lumpur! In the food court of the Pavilion shopping centre you can find a plethora of things to eat, from all around Asia and the world, but the one that I went for (read: my boyfriend chose for me) was this Indonesian chicken dish consisting of softened (literal translation: “smashed”) fried chicken served with spic sambal (that I’m not particularly crazy about), fried tofu and other things. It was crispy and delicious, but being a lazy person I’ve never been a huge fan of having to pull my food apart before I can eat it, especially at breakfast when all I want to do is shovel it down and be on my way!
I had dim sum multiple times during my trip, the best being my last breakfast in Brunei before I caught my plane home, but the first time was eating these ones above, after a few drinks in Changkat. They weren’t the most amazing dim sum ever, but they filled a hole and were a great late-night snack!
If you ask someone to tell you the first food they think of when you mention Malaysian cuisine, they would probably say laksa! Regular laksa isn’t my favourite, in fact I don’t really like it, but give me a nice hot bowl of curry laksa and I’m all over that! Its a big bowl of spicy, sour soup filled with noodles, puffed tofu, boiled eggs, vegetables, and slices of chicken that has been marinated in a really tasty sweet sauce. It’s not one to miss on a visit to Malaysia! (P.S. If someone would like to let me in on the secret of how to make laksa look nice in photos, I would really appreciate it! I never could manage to make it look nice…)
Another Hokkien speciality dish, bak kut teh translates directly as “bone meat tea”…appetising, right? So the name is pretty weird, but it’s actually delicious. Bak kut teh comes in two varieties – wet and dry – and consists of meaty pork ribs that have been simmered in a soup of herbs and spices for several hours. The wet version is then served in this soup, but the dry version is cooked all the way down until the soup has reduced to a dry, sticky delicious sauce. The dish in the first photo above is wet, and the version in the picture above is dry, and was served with meat floss on top – a peculiar fluffy way to serve meat, originating in China.
You might be forgiven for thinking this is a dessert, but guilingao’s primary function is as a Chinese medicine. Also known as tortoise or turtle jelly, it’s said that eating guilinggao can release and reduce internal body heat, and is widely acclaimed to be an anti-inflammatory and good for skin troubles. It was while walking through KL’s Chinatown that my boyfriend (of Chinese descent) spotted a guilinggao place on a street corner and got me to try it. By itself it’s almost tasteless, and a little bitter, but it’s served with a sugar syrup that makes it go down a lot easier. I didn’t have a lot, but it’s quite refreshing. As for its healing properties I am as yet unsure, but what works for some may not work for others, so give it a try yourself and let me know the results!
Go to any large shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur and you will find the famous black and yellow signs and displays of Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart, a company selling, well, baked cheese tarts. They come in a small selection of flavours – original, chocolate and durian – and I tried both the original and chocolate ones during my trip. The Southeast Asians go crazy for them, and I have to admit, I absolutely LOVED them, and no other brands lived up to the HBCT ones (yes, I ate quite a few of them…). They’re cheesy but sweet, and with a crispy layer over the soft cheese filling. Basically, a dream!
The heat in Kuala Lumpur made eating dessert a little difficult sometimes, but this tofu pudding was a nice light option, and an interesting alternative to ice-cream or frozen yoghurt. At Bean Factory, you can personalise your pot of soft tofu, and I opted for the classic black sugar syrup and crushed pecans – a great combo that I most certainly recommend. Other toppings include ginger syrup, almonds, and the Asian-favourite, red beans.
OK, so I’m cheating with this one a little. I didn’t eat sugar cane, but I did have some fresh juice from the plant while I wandered round the Jalan Petaling Market. I spotted the tall canes and was intrigued, so my boyfriend got us some and I was pleasantly surprised. It tastes sugary and earthy, and is kind of milky in appearance, but it was nicely refreshing on a hot day exploring a busy area.
This was another food discovery during my Chinatown market expedition. Don’t be fooled by the name! The purple mangosteen is in no way related to the mango, except in the fruit category of foods. Reminiscent of garlic, crack it open and you’ll see cloves of meaty, flaky fruit that is sweet and tangy. Its meat resembles that of the infamous durian that you can see everywhere, especially on Jalan Alor, but the taste is much friendlier! It is, in fact, related to the durian, and is sometimes called the Queen of Fruits where durian is the King.
Another cheat! But I couldn’t leave this one out. I tried fresh coconut water for the first time after a hot and sweaty climb at Batu Caves and it was highly appreciated! I was a little worried because I still have some lingering concerns about coconut (I hated it as a child but am enjoying it more nowadays), but it was SO good. A little sweet, a little plant-y, it went down an absolute treat, and lives up to its reputation of being one of the most refreshing drinks around. Ours was chilled in the fridge and chopped open right in front of us, making it even better!
So bingsu isn’t Malaysian, but after walking around doing some shopping and getting rather warm, it was a welcome diversion from the local cuisine. Bingsu is a Korean dessert of shaved ice, generally topped with a syrup or milk/cream, plus ice cream and other tasty things. Popular toppings in Korea include red bean, green tea, and strawberry, but the one I opted for at Caffe Bene (a Korean café chain) was chocolate and it was delicious. Shaved ice, chocolate shavings, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, chocolate ice cream and MORE chocolate; I’m not sure why I never had chocolate bingsu earlier!
Also known as bubble waffles, these egg waffles that have made their way to the Malaysian capital from Hong Kong are a nice little snack. The stand had a long queue, but we waited and ordered and then waited some more. We ordered the fudge flavour, but there are all sorts on offer including cheese and meat options. It came nice and hot, but I was a little disappointed! There was hardly any filling…and I love fudge! Maybe this was the idea of it, but for me it was a little nothing-y. Nice! But definitely over-hyped.
Another chilly dessert, this ice mango bowl was great for cooling down. From the dessert cafe Hui Lao Shan in Suria KLCC, the shopping centre underneath the Petronas Towers, it was a bowl of shaved ice, mango ice cream, little chewy tapioca balls and chunks of real mango. As a recent mango convert, I liked it, despite still not finding the texture of mango that appealing just yet. The best part was definitely the cold, mango-flavoured slush/juice at the bottom of the bowl!
Yet another drink (sorry not sorry) that I had never tried before and was pleasantly surprised by. I don’t eating melon, I don’t like melon flavoured things and I don’t like melon juices; not watermelon, nor cantaloupe, nor honeydew. But this drink, and the other winter melon drinks I tasted during my trip were actually quite nice. It doesn’t taste like other melons in the slightest (probably why I actually liked it!), but is more like a sweet sugary water. OK, so that’s not the most appetising description of a drink ever, but give it a try and you might like it too.
Oh look! Another dessert. Are you really surprised by now?! It should also come as no surprise that this sweet dish is also a shaved ice bowl. It is insanely popular throughout the Orient during hot weather (and in Kuala Lumpur that’s all year round), but this one is a little different. This shaved ice was grass jelly flavoured. Sound strange, but it’s a kind of sweet, kind of earthy flavour, and it’s really nice in both dessert and bubble tea. The shaved ice was topped with actual grass jelly and rice cakes, and was accompanied by a pot of condensed milk which we poured over the top. It was divine – a must-try!
Is anyone else surprised that I didn’t come home from my trip 10 dress sizes bigger? I certainly am! This list is not exhaustive, only the things that I could take a photo of before I shoved them down my pie hole. But it does a good job of showcasing all the different things I tried during my time in Kuala Lumpur! It doesn’t, however, say anything of the immense amount of food that I consumed in Brunei, so this is just a fraction of the food discoveries I made during my entire trip. Not to mention having afternoon tea in a revolving restaurant at the top of KL Tower!
MASTER POST: Kuala Lumpur | Travel Series
Thean Hou Temple | Tokong Thean Hou 乐圣岭天后宫
Batu Caves | பத்து மலை 黑風洞
Afternoon Tea at Atmosphere 360, Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Alor Food Street in Bukit Bintang
Having My First Ever Massage(s)!