Kuala Lumpur is (all too) often just a stopover before onward journeys to the rest of Malaysia and South East Asia. If you only have a day or two to savour it, you probably want to guarantee yourself a definitive taste...
A heady bouquet of Malay, Indian, Chinese, Thai and Arabic aromas and flavours, served everywhere from streetside stalls to lofty fine dining atop the Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur boasts some of the world’s best cuisine, with many must-tries for the food-loving visitor.
In all honesty, only that delicious commingling of cultures really nails what Kuala Lumpur's cuisine is all about, but if you’re seeking authentic Malay dishes, Malaysia's capital city - with its widely English-speaking citizens happy to explain ingredients and so forth - is an excellent place to learn more.
Kuala Lumpur is heaven for streetfood fans, with stalls selling cheap, delicious food open - mainly at night - throughout the city. Head to Jalan Ah Lor, which is open late every night, Masjid India (excellent Malay as well as Indian food), or Chinatown Night Market, where you'll find the best Hokkein Mee in town. These steaming bowls of slippery thick noodles are braised with squid, pork, cabbage, soy sauce, and that magic ingredient - pork lard!
Another favourite is melt-in-the-mouth Nasi Lemak, which is rice soaked in coconut cream, steamed, then served with hot spicy sauce and a tasty melee of anchovies, hard boiled egg, peanuts, and your choice of seafood, chicken, beef or pickled veg.
If you’re at all nervous about street food (you needn’t be, but perhaps you’ve had a bad experience - or you’re desperate for an air-conditioned lunch), try the food courts in the Golden Triangle shopping and nightlife district, overlooked by the Petronas Towers. Lot 10 Hutong features a number of definitive and excellent streetfood vendors who were cherry-picked to relocate into this heritage food court, while Suria KLCC’s Signatures Food Court, with its array of global cuisine, has a particularly good Malay selection.
Restaurants in Kuala Lumpur typically shut around 11pm, and only a select few of them are devoted to Malay cuisine. Bijan is stylish but accessible, and has a good reputation for modern interpretations of classic Malay ingredients. It’s a popular choice, so do make a reservation first. Sambal Hijau is good for authentic favourites, particularly barbecued fish, while Enak, while targeted at visitors rather than locals, serves a top notch selection of dishes prepared from the proprietor’s family recipes.