If there is only one place you can choose to complete your bucket list for that gastronomical foodie experience, you may just want to do your taste buds that ultimate favor by keeping that spot for Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia. Nestled among its busy urban streetscapes are quaint colonial shophouses with the best kept secrets for food lovers! Here is a guide to the quintessential foodie experience in KL!
Your quintessential foodie experience starts here
For breakfast: Roti Canai and Teh Halia
Go global by eating like a local as you start your morning food adventure down the winding streets of around KL’s Brickfields area, where its delightful colours are as vivid as the tastes that will welcome you. The best thing is that Brickfields is only a quick 10-minute walk from KL Sentral so you will be close to the foodie action without the need for a taxi. You will be well rewarded for the decision to ditch that usual hotel buffet breakfast! Here, you can sample a multitude of savory roti canai (a traditional Indian flatbread), beautifully served on a refreshingly green banana leaf. The only right way to eat this is by taking a generous portion of the roti and soaking it in the rich dahl curry that accompanies it. Wash it all down with a spicy hot teh halia (ginger tea), neatly tarek (pulled) to perfection.
If you only have enough time and tummy capacity to try one place, it’s got to be the Chat Masala Restaurant, where a nice meal of local fare can be had for S$10, with the hot tea included. Time seems to have stood still in the 1970s in this very authentic restaurant, where the homely flavours can only be beaten by the family hospitality that you can only find in villages of old. Come for the food, but definitely stay for the neighbourly conversations.
Pro tip: If your hotel is around KL Sentral, take your time and choose to move around easily by foot – That’s the best way to soak in the atmosphere in this very rustic area!
Chat Masala Restaurant
Address: 259, Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday, 7.30am to 11.00pm
Phone: +60 3-2260 3244
Price range: Expect to spend about S$10 for a full meal
For lunch: Beef noodles
Next, get moving quick over to Chinatown (the seasoned traveller will suggest you take the LRT, the affordable and convenient local metro service) to beat the queue at the area’s famous beef noodle joints, which I dare say you’ll not find a better alternative anywhere in the rest of KL.
Strong influences from KL’s old Chinese migrant community give the Petaling Street area its traditional and distinct Malaysian charm. The choice pick for a rich and hearty bowl of beef noodle goodness can be found at Soong Kee Beef Ball Noodle. Take a step into the old coffeeshop setting and the deep aroma of freshly boiled beef tender slices and bouncy balls of beef will be the first thing to hit you. Soong Kee regulars will tell you to order the soup noodle for a taste of authentic old school beef broth. The accompanying noodles are boiled and tossed to perfection before resting gently in a bowl. Next comes the real magic – Generous slides of beef, followed by a helping of beef balls. This is then topped up with fresh veggies and some fried onions to add to the gorgeous flavour. Each bowl won’t break the bank, but the awesome taste may tempt you to think long and hard on whether you want to share a second bowl with a friend.
Pro tip: If you’re up for it, try adding beef tripe for a different taste, which some say would put your taste buds on overdrive.
Soong Kee Beef Ball Noodle
Address: 86, Jalan Tun H S Lee, City Centre, 50050 Kuala Lumpur.
Opening hours: 11am to 12am daily, closed on Sunday
Phone: +60 3 2078 1484
Price range: Expect to spend about S$3 to S$7 for a meal
For dinner: Nasi Kukus
As the afternoon sun starts to catch your eye in KL, shift down a gear after your first two delightful foodie stops. A ride in one of KL’s many cabs (skip the bargaining and have the cabby turn on the meter (expect to pay around S$8) will take you across town to Petaling Jaya. The 30-minute ride might be considered a distance, but your journey will be well worth it.
The nasi kukus (steamed rice served with curry and fried chicken) in this area has often been called Malaysia’s best by many living in KL. Regardless, the taste of this traditional delight is something everyone can agree on! Go to Nasi Kukus Ilham where the rice is perfectly steamed, the chicken is always crispy and succulent, and of course, one taste of the sambal will let you know you have arrived in food-paradise.
Nasi Kukus Ilham
Address: Jalan PJU 7/16, Mutiara Damansara, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday, 11.30am to 10.00pm
Phone: +60 13-966 2525
Price range: Expect to spend S$4 to S$10 for a meal
Getting to KL
There are many ways to get to KL. Besides going behind the wheels and taking a 4 to 5 hour self-drive up, there’s the more laid back option of a five to six hour bus ride, for those who are not in a rush. However, there’s always the possible jam at the Causeway to think about, if you choose to get there by road! Another mode of transport is to get on a plane. There are various airlines that fly directly from Changi Airport to KL in less than an hour.
But! If you’ve never flown on a propeller-powered plane before, why not try it with a flight on FireFly from Seletar to Subang Airport? This will get you the extra bragging right of being on the tarmac as you take the rare walk to board your flight and snap that Insta-worthy selfie with the plane up close in the background!). Once buckled-up, feel the raw power of Firefly’s turbo-prop engines come to life as the plane taxis to the runway for take-off and onwards to your foodie journey. Oh yes, another reason to fly by Firefly to Subang Airport is that it’s nearer to KL city than Kuala Lumpur International Airport itself, saving you precious travel time!
Now that you have all that you need to embark on your foodie adventure to KL, all that’s left to do is to book your flight and go. If you have any other recommendations on where to eat in KL, do share with us below!
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Best time to visit
While hot and humid most of the year, heading to Kuala Lumpur towards the end of the year would be delightful with the cooler breeze abound. Just remember to pack a small umbrella in case the rain comes.
Get around KL city in different and convenient ways. These range from the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the monorail, to the usual bus and taxis. Seasoned travellers do recommend that to beat the traffic, especially during the morning and evening rush hours, the trick is to find a hotel near where you want to visit and move around by foot to really soak up the local sights and culture.
Currency used in Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit. Malaysia is one of Southeast Asia’s most affordable cities. You can find ATMs conveniently located in most areas across Kuala Lumpur, and moneychangers that will give you a competitive rate.
There are multiple airlines that fly direct to KL from Changi Airport. Book your flights here.
Firefly operates six daily flights from Seletar Airport to Subang Airport in KL. Start your KL adventure with a flight with Firefly here.