Back in November, I went on a little adventure to visit a friend in Malaysia. Malaysia wasn’t on the top of my list of other countries to visit. It wasn’t even in the top of my list of countries in Asia to visit. But, boy, am I glad I decided to go. The whole visit was prompted by the fact that a good friend of mine, incidentally also a local Malaysian, was in the country at the time which meant I would have someone local to show me around. Lonely Planet guides are great, but a local showing you around is even better! And this is how I found myself spending one week in food paradise…So as my second post on this blog, I thought that I would offer you a little glimpse of all the fantastic food Malaysia has to offer.
First of all, what you should know about Malaysia is that it is a country rich in immigration. Over the years, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Indonesian (and other) immigrants have made their way into Malaysia and have created a fantastic diversity which is evident in the Malaysian culture, food and life. While we were there, we tried to have as much of the diverse food offering as humanly possible. I think I ate my weight in delicious food while I was there.
We had three days in KL – not a lot but enough to sample some of the delicious offerings of Malaysia’s capital. We stayed in the City Centre which was ideal for sightseeing and for accessing some truly fantastic restaurants.
On Day 1 we were taken for lunch to Sri Nirwana Maju. This fantastic restaurant offers Indian dishes served straight on a banana leaf. The restaurant is definitely not flashy and doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the impressive queue outside the door at lunchtime is a testament to just how good the food is. Added bonus – it’s also cheap! We had chicken briyani, which came with salad and pickles, as well as squid and fish to share. By the way, Malaysia has a lot of fresh squid and it’s truly delicious. I recommend eating a lot of it if you are there!
On our 2nd Day, we went for breakfast at Chocha Foodstore. This is was a charming place situated in the courtyard of the building. From my understanding, this is a new type of café/restaurant to hit KL. Very modern looking, this restaurant served delicious Asian Fusion food and perhaps offers a more modern take on Malay and Asian food. The drink menu was interesting too, from cold brew teas to fermented fruit juices, there was a lot to excite your taste buds!
Chocha Foodstore was right next to another KL favourite – Merchant’s Lane. Merchant’s Lane is spread across three rooms, each in a different décor but beautifully linked to one another. I could have easily spent hours there drinking their delicious coffee and fresh fruit juices. The food was absolutely stunning as well with an interesting breakfast and brunch menu (especially their chickpea dhal baked with cheese and eggs with paratha bread) as well as exciting take on Asian dishes for lunch and dinner.
On the same street, you can also find a hidden Speakeasy bar, PS150. Behind the Toy Store entrance, you will find a charming bar which offers a good number of delicious cocktails which are served in Speakeasy setting of the 50s. Speakeasy’s are quite trendy in KL and there is a good choice available if you wanted to visit one! A definite must visit when you are in KL.
On our last evening in KL, we headed to Heli Lounge Bar – a bar situated on a helipad in the middle of KL. The bar offers fantastic views of KL’s skyline which you can enjoy while sipping a delicious cocktail. I’d recommend heading there around 5pm so that you can definitely get a table and watch the sunset over KL.
After spending a couple of hours enjoying the views over KL, we all worked up an appetite and spent the rest of the evening walking around and eating in KLs famous street food market along Jln Alor. This evening market is full of restaurants serving delicious street food. There are many places you can eat at, but I would specifically recommend trying the mouth-watering chicken wings in Wong Ah Wah. Not only are they barbequed for order, but are also smoked right in front of you.
In between our 3 days in KL, we also had a fantastic 3 days relaxing in the tropical paradise that is the island of Langkawi. Only a short flight away, the island offers beautiful beaches and fantastic mountains to escape the business of the city. This small island had no shortage of delicious Malaysian food and is also duty-free!
Now, the first place I have to absolutely mention is Siti Fatimah. This restaurant was slightly hidden away and it is absolutely THE place to visit for no-fuss, delicious and inexpensive Malaysian food. We were the only foreigners eating there at the time and the place was filling up with locals while we ate. There is a choice of around 60 dishes which you can eat as much as you want from. The owners will come and price your plates when you fill them. Another place which offers good Malay food was Melayu.
You can also find a number of night food markets in Langkawi. The one we tried was the Roving Night Market which changes its location depending on the day of the week. The market wasn’t exceptionally big but it offered a large selection of Malay, Indian, Chinese and other street food. We tried to have a bit of everything, so we had goat curry, fried squid, fried chicken skins, fried chicken, appam balik (peanut filled mini dosas), pastries and so much more. We still probably spent less than £10 for the three of us!
We also tried one of the many seafood restaurants on offer in Langkawi. Perhaps one of the better-known ones, and one that is always full despite its size was Orkid Ria. Specialising in Chinese-Malaysian sea-food, there is a rather large choice of fish and seafood delicacies on offer. You are offered to select the specific fish you would like from the fish display in the entrance and there is also a choice of still-living crabs, lobsters, prawns etc which you can also choose from, while they are still swimming in their fish tanks.
Finally, one evening while looking for another local restaurant (Llawa – recommended in every guide!) we discovered it had rebranded to OVN and was now offering western food. Still worth going, but it’s one of the more expensive restaurants on the island. If you find yourself missing western food then this is where you can find some delicious food to remind you of home.
And here we are, my short whistle tour of food in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi is at its end. Malaysia may have not been on my top countries to visit, but it is absolutely one of the countries I cannot wait to return to as there is still so much to explore (Penang and Melaka – you are next!). I hope this will encourage you to travel there and visit some of those fantastic places as well!
Note: Special thanks to my lovely friend Sarah, who not only took us to all of those places but also helped with this blog post!