A visit to Malaysia would be incomplete without sampling the local food. Often spicy, yet always flavourful, ethnic Halal food springs to mind as topping the list of must-try food in KL and here we list 10 Great Malay Dishes you have to sample before you leave.
While Malaysian food encompasses a variety of dishes from all ethnicities in the country - including Indian, Chinese, Malay, Nyonya and more - Malay fare is ethnically-specific and very popular among locals. Kuala Lumpur has no shortage of restaurants specialising in these dishes, but here we list out what each dish is and the place that does it best. Read on to find out more about our favourites, listed in no particular order, and see if you agree.
The king of Malay food, nasi lemak stands firmly at the top of most locals’ list of favourite food. A dish of coconut flavoured rice, with boiled egg, fried peanuts, anchovies and a spicy shrimp-based sauce on the side, you will find this dish sold at fancy restaurants for a steep price and even roadside sellers for as little as RM1. Its readily-available nature contributes to it being the unofficial Malaysian breakfast staple.
A high price does not guarantee a well-made serving of this dish and we have found that Village Park Nasi Lemak in Damansara Utama in Petaling Jaya really does it justice. For approximately RM10 you can get a plateful of flavourful rice, with all the trimmings plus great tasting fried chicken or the Malaysian-famous rendang (beef stewed with coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, turmeric, ginger and chilli).
- Opening Hours: 07:00 - 20:00 Monday – Saturday; 07:00 - 18:00 Sunday & public holidays
- Address: 5, Jalan SS21/37, Damansara Uptown, Petaling Jaya, Damansara Utama, 47400
- Tel: +603 7710 7860
Popular in Malaysia, satay is basically pieces of skewered meat marinated overnight before being barbecued over a charcoal fire and served. The marinade used comprises lemongrass, turmeric, coriander, shallots, garlic and chilli, as well as some honey to give the meat its slightly sweet taste.
Served with a faintly-fiery peanut-based sauce, our favourite satay can be found at Capital Café along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in KL, just minutes from Masjid Jamek LRT Station. Called Kamaruddin’s Satay, this stall has been in operation for over 50 years and utilises a generations-old recipe passed down for father to son. You will find chicken and beef satay on the menu, but our favourite is the latter for its rich, savoury taste and tender, juicy meat.
- Opening Hours: 17:00 – 21:00
- Address: 213 Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur
An addictive dish of chunky, slippery glass noodles drowned in a sour and spicy broth made by stewing mackerel flakes, tamarind juice, chilli, mint leaves, lemongrass, onions and pineapples, asam laksa certainly wins affection instantly, even if you are not a fan of fiery food. Though it is really high up in the spiciness levels, the light texture of the translucent broth along with the fat, chewy glass noodles (as well as the accompanying sweet shrimp paste, to be mixed with the soup), makes for a heartily satisfying and tangy meal.
Our favourite place for asam laksa in KL is O&S Restaurant in Taman Paramount in Petaling Jaya. A small bowl costs RM5.50, and is loaded with plenty of firm fish chunks and silky glass noodles, but finding a table at this coffee shop can be a little hard, especially during lunchtime (12:00 – 14:00), so arrive outside these busy hours.
- Opening Hours: 07:00 – 15:00
- Address: 39, Jalan 20/14, Paramount Gardens, 46300 Petaling Jaya
- Tel: +603 7876 1488
A cross between noodle and pastry, roti jala is a yellow net-like crepe, made from rice flour, with an almost gelatine consistency. It has a lacy appearance, frequently serves as an alternative to rice, and is especially popular during festive celebrations. Cooked on a hot griddle, the square-shaped crepe comes with a variety of side servings, from a customary thick and savoury chicken curry with potatoes, or chicken and beef rendang, or spicy Indian-style dry mutton squares, or even chicken kurma (a mildly spicy yoghurt-based curry).
Though most prevalent during Malay and Indian festive celebrations at open celebration houses, you can still find restaurants that serve pretty good roti jala in KL. Our favourite, which is served with very tasty, creamy chicken curry, can be found at Nyonya Colours at Suria KLCC for about RM11.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 22:00
- Address: Level 2, Suria KLCC, Jalan P Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur City Centre
- Tel: +603 2164 3188
Also called “mee jawa”, this dish of fat yellow noodles immersed in thick, sweet and slightly-spicy beef stock gravy is loved by travellers visiting KL. Not overpowering to the taste buds, the translucent brown gravy binds all the ingredients together, which includes squares of tofu, sweet potatoes, bean sprouts, half of a boiled egg, fried onions, chilli slices, and roasted peanuts.
In our opinion, the best mee rebus in KL can be found at Rosli Mee Rebus, a stall set along Jalan Masjid India (behind Haniffa Textiles). At just RM3.50, a plate of this noodle dish is definitely worth it; packed with flavour and very filling.
- Opening Hours: 09:30 – 16:30 Monday – Saturday
- Address: Lorong Bunus 4, Off Jalan Masjid India, 50100, Kuala Lumpur
- Tel: +6019 280 3171 or +6017 641 3463
The blue-tinged colour of the rice in this Malay dish may seem strange, but it does nothing to detract from its taste. To achieve its distinctive hue, the rice is mixed with blue pea flower, while lemongrass, kaffir leaves and salt gives it its savoury taste. Accompanied by side dishes of mackerel flakes with grated coconut, turmeric-battered fried fish or beef, coconut sauce, salted egg, and prawn crackers, it is really delicious and a popular breakfast option among locals.
The best and most convenient restaurant for nasi kerabu in KL can be found at Sooka Sentral (just beside the main transport station) in the KL Sentral area. The fried turmeric-battered beef is tender with crispy, crackling skin, while the coconut sauce adds a slightly-spicy kick to the meal.
- Opening Hours: 07:30 – 15:00
- Address: SOOKA Sentral, Level 1, Jalan Stesen Sentral, Kuala Lumpur
- Tel: +603 2785 1945 or +6012 415 5780 or +6017 415 5243
Nasi Goreng Kampung
Nasi goreng kampung is Malay comfort food; a fried rice dish with the customary eggs scrambled with rice, along with the addition of vegetables such as water spinach, diced long beans and onions. What makes it stand out flavour-wise is the inclusion of crunchy fried anchovies, juicy chunks of chicken and shallots.
The fire-factor tends to be a little high due to the inclusion of bird’s eye chilli when frying, but if you are not keen on spicy food, request that the chef omit this ingredient when preparing your fried rice.
There are so many restaurants that do this dish justice, but we love the version done by Rosdet Tomyam restaurant in Kampung Baru, which is served with belacan (shrimp paste), fried chicken, salad tossed with pineapples and onions, and a fried egg. Simply spectacular, the approximately-RM7 dish is a crowd-pleaser every time we visit.
- Address: 5, 160, Jalan Abdul Rahman Idris, Chow Kit, 50300 Kuala Lumpur
- Tel: +6016 908 2454
A dumpling made of steamed seafood mousse within a rectangular-shaped pouch of woven banana leaves, otak otak is an important part of Malay culture. Comprising Spanish mackerel fish fillets with kaduk leaves, mixed together with spices such as lemongrass, galangal and turmeric, the end-product has an almost gelatine-like consistency.
Our favourite version of this dish can be found at Songket Restaurant along Jalan Yap Kwan Seng in KL, where the fish cake’s belacan taste stands out. The perfect starter to an authentic Malay meal, a RM15 plate of otak otak can be shared between two people.
- Opening Hours: 12:00 – 15:00 Monday – Friday and 18:00 – 23:00; 17:00 – 23:00 Saturday, Sunday & public holiday
- Address: No. 29, Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, 50450 Kuala Lumpur
- Tel: +603 2161 3331 or +60162 3479173 or +6012 2607769 or +6012 3945004
With origins in the Malaysian state of Kelantan, nasi dagang basically consists of slightly-sticky, sweet and nutty-flavoured rice, with your selection of meat and vegetable side dishes. Usually served buffet-style, you will be presented with a plate of white rice and then are free to make your selection of side dishes, which includes beef rendang, curried squid and fried fish. Finish off by liberally drenching the rice with different curries, which results in a unique and very tasty dish.
We highly recommend Capital Nasi Dagang Kelantan in Damansara Uptown (not far from Village Park Restaurant), Petaling Jaya, where you make your selection from a stainless steel counter where the dishes are kept heated. A generously-portioned meal will set you back about RM20, but it is definitely worthwhile.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 - 17:00
- Address: 29, Jalan SS21/1A, Damansara Uptown, Petaling Jaya
- Tel: +601 2921 5200
Ayam perchik is quite popular and easily found in Malay restaurants around the city. We are big fans of this Kelantanese dish, with chicken that has been marinated in coconut milk, onions, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chilli, and then roasted. What makes it so great is the fact that the meat is tender and juicy and, when paired with white rice and a side serving of salad, makes for a terrific meal.
Our favourite interpretation of this dish can be found at the gorgeous Enak KL, a Malay fine diner set on the lower ground floor of Starhill Gallery, along Jalan Bukit Bintang. At just RM25, it is prepared and presented perfectly. We love this dish with the restaurant’s signature kerabu jantung pisang - banana balsam salad tossed with a base of coconut milk, spiced with bird’s eye chilli, onions and spring onions.
- Opening Hours: 12:00 – 24:00
- Address: LG2, Feast Floor, Starhill Gallery, 181 Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur
- Tel: +603 2141 8973