Chinatown has some of the best street food in Kuala Lumpur. From early morning to well past midnight, restaurants with hawker stalls and plastic tables and chairs spilling out onto the pavements are an all too common scene. Despite the messy layout and (sometimes) seemingly unsanitary conditions of eating ‘on the street’ these restaurants are without a doubt the best places to eat when in Chinatown. Everything is prepared fresh so the food is always safe to eat but a good rule of thumb is to stick to places with lots of customers, or you can just use our handy guide to navigate the overwhelming options!
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Restoran Kim Lian Kee bills itself as the birthplace of hokkien mee in Kuala Lumpur. Set at the junction of Petaling Street (beside Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf), it is a corner lot restaurant that is over 100 years old. Although its menu is fairly extensive and includes typical tai chow (dishes) to be eaten with rice, it is the fat yellow stir-fried hokkien mee noodles doused in delicious and thick soy sauce gravy that draws in the crowds.
It all started out as a small hawker stall business run by the Lee family, until the owners expanded it into a proper restaurant. Today, there are two stalls that make the noodles: the first (and original) one is set across the street from the current hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. Locals say the original stall, which uses charcoal to make the noodles, serves up a better version. Presented on a banana leaf-lined plate, with heaps of prawns, pork, squid and generous helpings of lard fritters, the hokkien mee is thoroughly enjoyable on its own but for locals the canister of sambal belacan (anchovy chilli paste) on each table is one of the best accompaniments to the dish. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Daily, 07:00 – 16:00 (chee cheong fun), 17:00 – 05:00 (Hokkien fried noodles). Closed on Wednesdays.
- Location: at the corner where Petaling Street meets Jalan Hang Lekir – usually opposite a Longan drink stall – you can’t miss its big red signboard saying ‘Restoran Kim Lean Kee’
- Address: 49-51, Jalan Petaling, 55100 Kuala Lumpur
- Tel: +603 2032 4984
A Cantonese dish popular in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore, wan tan mee is a dish of noodles sautéed in sweetened black sauce and traditionally served with toppings such as char siew (barbecued pork slices) or chicken slices. One of the best places in the city to sample wan tan mee is the 50-year old Restoran Koon Kee, located opposite Hong Leong Bank along Petaling Street.
The noodles at this shop have a springy texture and are very tasty – the perfect combination for wan tan mee but it is the wan tan (pork and shrimp dumplings) soup that has us coming back time and time again. The plump dumplings are generously filled with minced meat, prawns, white cabbage and diced Chinese mushrooms, while the broth is full of herbs and light. Overall Restoran Koon Kee lives up to its reputation and you’ll find a lot of different garnishings to go with your wan tan mee here – from the common char siew (barbecued pork) to braised chicken feet with mushrooms. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 22:00
Some of the older parts of Kuala Lumpur are decaying little by little, but some institutions still stand strong to remind us of the character it once held. A good example of this is Old China Cafe, an old-fashioned coffee shop serving delicious Peranakan food. Located slightly off the beaten track in Chinatown, it is housed in a heritage pre-war shop-house dating back to the early 1900s and retains its quiet charm, with most of its original furnishings still gracing the interior. Blending centuries-old cultures and customs, spicy dishes rule the menu with non-halal ingredients such as pork cooked with Malay flavours.
We recommend the cafe’s especially good beef rendang – the meat is tender and spicy and typically served with either plain white rice or the blue-tinged coconut rice. However if you are the health-conscious type, grab a bowl of ginseng soup – at RM8.90 per bowl, this is one of the cheapest ginseng soups we have ever stumbled upon in KL. Read More...
- Address: No. 11, Jalan Balai Polis, Kuala Lumpur
- Tel: +6 03 2072 5915
Our next recommendation is an unsigned, unmarked stall that sits on the roadside outside Hong Leong Bank, on the corner of Jalan Petaling and Jalan Hang Lekir. A great option after you have been shopping along Petaling Street, ikan panggang (also known as grilled or barbecued fish) is very popular at KL hawker centres particularly at night, but this is one place where fish is available early on in the day.
This mobile kitchen’s ikan panggang is legendary: perfectly marinated, the meat is tender and juicy, retaining its fishy yet sweet flavour and given a slightly spicy zest. Locals add fuel to the fire by dipping each bite of fish in the chilli and onion dipping sauce, but we recommend you don’t follow suit unless you are looking for a flaming treat for your taste buds. Take note that it often takes more than 20 minutes for each foil-wrapped piece of juicy fish to arrive: also vendors’ protectively guard the tables and chairs directly in front of their stalls, so be sure you grab a seat at the section of the vendor from whom you have ordered.
- Opening Hours: early morning – 19:00
- Location: Outside Hong Leong Bank, Petaling Street
A trip to Chinatown would not be complete without a visit to stalls along Madras Lane at Petaling Street's wet market. Essentially a series of stands lining the warren of walkways in the narrow openings halfway down Petaling Strret and Jalan Tun HS Lee, they’ve been in business for more than 30 years now. The stall at the end of the strip should be your chosen destination - unmarked but for the Chinese characters and Malay writing (spelling out 'asam laksa'), we consider it the best asam laksa in the city.
Asam laksa is an intense, flavourful dish of clear fish-flavoured broth that is at once sweet, sour and spicy, with glass noodles, shredded cucumber, Thai bird chillies, pineapple flakes, mint leaves and fat tinned sardine chunks. At this Chinatown stall the rice flour-based noodles are thick and gelatinous, while the soup is thicker than those found at regular hawker stalls around the city, clearly making this dish memorable.
- Opening Hours: 08:30 – 15:00 (closed Monday)
- Location: last stall at the entrance (directly opposite the barley drink stand) of Madras Lane, Petaling Street wet market