My favourite people in the world are Malaysians. Four trips to the country and countless of airport layovers in between, I stand by this claim with the conviction of a traveller who’s only had smashing reminiscence of the country.
It started with Jabidi, an old neighbour whose stories of coming to the Philippines by small boat from his native, Sabah, bequeathed my first glimpse of Malaysia. Then it continued with Tasha, whose food blog was spiced with family secrets from her grandma’s recipe book. Lastly, with Teoh, the most disarming gentleman I’ve ever known in this lifetime. (and you know how “disarming” stalls all else into standstill, but that’s for another blog post, so…)
On my recent trip however, Wilson, Nicole and Casey took centerstage. They did right, primarily, by taking me out on one hell of a gastronomic adventure.
Read: Melaka Food Trip Guide
To pay the thoughtfulness forward, here’s an Ultimate Kuala Lumpur Food Trip Hack from sunrise to midnight with local expertise courtesy of my Malaysian friends.
1. Instant Mi Goreng with a Gourmet Twist
Because really, who were we kidding? What with the fast-paced KL metropolis and its ironically severe traffic jams, nothing spelled convenience than a pack of instant Mi Goreng.
Then again, I was in posh Mont Kiara and somehow, there was a need to live up to the prestige. To the rescue were few drops of truffle oil and a perfectly fried egg and voila! Gourmet Mi Goreng ala Casey.
(Nota bene: I actually had this at dinner, but for this exercise, let’s pretend it’s an all-day breakfast.)
Technically, we drove out of Kuala Lumpur and to the neighbouring city of Petaling Jaya for lunch. It appeared that we actually drove against the direction of traffic too, which was half-genius, half-miraculous.
Village Park Restaurant
5 Jalan SS21/37
47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
2. Nasi Lemak
One cannot claim to have been in Malaysia until one had gobbled an entire plate of Nasi Lemak up. To Malaysians, nothing is Nasi Lemak enough unless it is the one at Village Park in PJ.
The hero of this national dish is in how fragrant and well-cooked the rice is. Usually cooked with coconut and pandan, this rice dish is often served with meat, anchovies, hard-boiled egg, vegetables and peanuts.
3. Milo Dinosaur
Common in Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore, this a traditional (street) drink made of Iced Milo topped with an excess of undissolved Milo powder.
Cheap and easy to make, but surprisingly a refreshing palate cleanser.
Jalan Alor is most alive at night. Proximal to the backpacker haven of Bukit Bintang, Jalan Alor is KL’s street food Mecca.
From sundown onwards, this whole street transforms to a series of outdoor restaurants serving a variety of local dishes: a true reflection of Kuala Lumpur’s multicultural identity.
Triple Gold Kitchen
67-69 Jalan Alor
50200 Kuala Lumpur
4. Mo Mo Cha Cha
Also called Bobo Chacha or Bubur Chacha, it is a traditional Nyonya Dessert. Comprising of root crop like taro and sweet potato, it is cooked in coconut milk and added with tapioca, banana and other fruits. It can also be served hot or cold.
5. Oyster Omelette
Oyster Omelette is a savoury dish comprising of an oyster-filled egg-and-flour battered omelette. A common street food in Taiwan, it can be attributed to Fujian and Chaozhou origins, and is widely available in many parts of Asia.
6. Grilled Stingray
Basically, this dish a grilled/barbecued stingray, laden with sambal topping and served on a banana leaf. It is widely popular in hawker stalls across the Malaysian peninsula and nearby Singapore.
7. Yin Yong
The duality of Yin and Yang– the harmony of two oppositions, is what this cultural dish represents. Basically two types of noodles are used: a dry one (usually vermicelli) and a wet one (usually flat noodles), which are then fused into a dish of contrasts, with vegetables, protein and other spices.
8. Kuey Tiao
Infamous in Penang, Kuey Tiao is a flat noodle dish that is stir-fried in lard and mixed with a variety of protein and vegetables. Often, it is served on a plate of banana leaf to further enhance the aroma of this Malaysian staple.
9. Hokien Noodles
Also known as Hokkien Char Mee, this soy sauce- braised yellow noodle dish is another hawker stall favourite that is widely served in many Asian countries.
It’s one thing to rough it out at a roadside eatery. It’s another to polish up to the heights of luxury immediately after roughing it up. That’s precisely what we did when right after Jalan Alor, off we went to the very exclusive Fuego Sky Dining at The Troika.
At first we weren’t sure if we’d be allowed entry in shorts and sandals. But my friends made calls and luckily so, we were gracefully received despite being under-dressed.
Reminiscent of clandestine rendezvous amongst the most influential, the atmosphere in the towers were almost eerie in its silence. We were led to a lift, to a dim-lit foyer and finally through a narrow corridor. I wasn’t prepared of what greeted us thereafter: panoramic views of the Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur’s best-known landmark.
Fuego Troika Sky Dining
Level 23a, Tower B, The Troika
19 Persiaran KLCC
50450 Kuala Lumpur
10. Churros and Salted Caramel
Fuego Sky Dining is tapas for the high society. I was fine with cocktails. But then Nicole insisted we try the Churros with Salted Caramel dip. And my golly was she right. If not for our very heavy dinner, I would’ve downed the entire jar of dip, spoonful after sinful spoonful.
It was such an experience that even before leaving, I was already planning on coming back: one day soon, and always, until I have sampled all items in their menu.
I have been to Kuala Lumpur many times in the past. But after this Food Trip, the country took on a new form in my eyes. The city’s gastronomy, I realize, somehow mirrors the identity of the nation: boldly open to fusion, but proudly rooted on tradition.