SEPTEMBER 2023 ISSUE
CURRY LAKSA. ALL IMAGES COURTESY MALAYSIA TOURISM
From Michelin-starred restaurants to delicious street food, Malaysia really does have it all when it comes to cuisine. Here we look at three locations where the variety is incredible and all within reach in just one day.
MALAYSIA IS a food lover’s paradise. No visit is ever complete without the gastronomic adventure of the country’s multi-ethnic culinary diversity.
This melting pot of cultures has blended over the years, with locals sampling tastes and ingredients and learning cooking methods from each other.
Each region in Malaysia has something unique to offer from Penang’s char kuey teow and asam laksa to Johor’s mee rebus.
From high-end restaurants to streets transformed by food vendors when the sun goes down, this is an experience not to be missed.
Here we look at the Malaysian Food Trail which runs from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh and ends in the street food capital of the country, Penang. And the good news is you can do all this in just one day!
Where better to start your food adventure than Kuala Lumpur, affectionately nicknamed “KL” and the capital of Malaysia.
KL is known to many as a city that never sleeps and naturally such a cosmopolitan capital has plenty of classy restaurants and street food vendors catering to all tastes and budgets.
In the first edition of the Michelin Guide 2023 Malaysia, some 97 restaurants were listed, two of which featured in KL.
These were Dewakan, a restaurant presenting modern Malaysian dishes honouring provenance by using local and indigenous produce, and DC. By Darren Chin, offering French classics with an emphasis on regional live seafood and local produce.
If you are going to tackle the Food Trail in one day there’s no better way to kick off your culinary journey than with nasi lemak, the national dish of Malaysia.
Generally eaten for breakfast, the dish consists of rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, served with fried anchovies, sliced cucumbers, an egg, peanuts and sweet chili sauce. which is a basic nasi lemak however one can upsize with other optional side dishes such fried chicken, beef rendang or sambal cuttlefish etc.
Of course, KL’s cultural diversity offers a myriad of choices. Head to Brickfields for delicious Indian food served on banana leaves, Kampung Baru for Malay food or the huge selection of Chinese dishes to be found in Petaling Street.
For those looking for a slightly different food experience, Vespalicious offer night tours of off the beaten path food streets and markets. You’ll be chauffeur driven on the back of a Vespa, discovering the best food and cultural experiences the city can offer.
Street Food Scene, Malaysia
From Kuala Lumpur it’s just a two-and-a-half-hour rail journey via the Electric Train Service (ETS) to Ipoh, the capital city of Perak.
While the Old Town is full of architectural wonders and heritage trails, for most Malaysians the main attraction to Ipoh is the food, the reason it is known locally as “Eat City”.
No visit to Ipoh is complete without stopping at the ever-popular Kopitiams (coffee houses), countless hipster cafes or simply indulging at the local stalls. Look out for the Harry Potter-themed café, Ipoh’s glass forest café or even an oriental teahouse.
Concubine Lane is the heart of Ipoh’s foodie district. The area is flanked by old-style Chinese shop houses, complete with shutters and beautiful tiles. But it’s the food that attracts many, offering a range of Chinese and Malay dishes. Favourites include nga choy kai, Ipoh kai si hor fun and tau fu fa.
Ipoh is also famous for its white coffee and a variety of local delicacies, such as beansprout chicken and traditional flaky pastries (heong peah) baked in earthen kilns fired by coconut husks.
One of the best Malaysia street foods is cendol, a mixture of shaved ice, brown sugar syrup, sweet green jelly and beans served over coconut milk. Head to Cendol Wawasan for one of the best offerings on the streets of Ipoh.
Penang is known as the street food capital of Malaysia and by dinnertime you could be in George Town, with the ETS taking just two hours from Ipoh.
One of the classic street food dishes to be found here is apom, which resembles a crepe. Ravi Claypot Apom Manis has been around since the 1920s at Swee King Coffee Shop and is open from 6am.
Little India is also a must-visit, housing some of the city’s best restaurants and cafes. You’ll also find vendors on bicycles selling delicious snacks and Bengali bread, and some of the best samosas you’ll ever taste.
Stretching down one of the oldest streets in George Town, Chulia Street Night Hawker has been a part of Little India since 1786. Here you’ll find some classic hawker dishes, including char kuey teow, apom and wantan mee.
Gurney Drive is also famous for its street cuisine at the seafront’s hawker centre. Here you can find such dishes as char kuey teow, hokkien mee, jiu hoo eng chye (spinach with cuttlefish), lok lok (meat on sticks), mee goreng, mee rebus, pasembur, rojak and douha (soya bean curd).
According to Penang Foodie, the must-try dish is food is Bridge Street hokkien mee, also known as CY Choy Road hokkien mee and once recommended by CNN Travel. It’s located in one of the heritage houses along Beach Street with more than 50 years of history in Penang.
For gourmands, two restaurants in Penang were awarded one Michelin star in the latest guide book. They were Auntie Gaik Lean’s Old School Eatery, serving Peranakan cuisine made from Chef Auntie Gaik’s secret recipes and quality produce, and Au Jardin, for sophisticated European fare with subtle local twists.