Visit KL without a plate of nasi lemak and consider your trip wasted. It’s hard to pick the best spot for our mighty national dish, so here’s our top three: go to Nasi Lemak Famous for nasi lemak with crispy ayam goreng rempah, Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa for a variety of sides (such as sambal sotong and paru goreng), and Village Park if you like yours with a whole fried chicken leg and a side of cool. For more, see our list of best nasi lemak stalls in KL.
Even if you’re not a huge fan of grilled fish, the ikan bakar at Kedai Kak Jat exists to change your mind about it. Maybe it’s the freshness of the fish, the spicy marinade or the precision with which they’re grilled to create a charred, crispy exterior while the flesh remains moist and flaky; whatever it is, this is the ikan bakar worthy of going the extra mile for (in this case, going up Bukit Petaling at lunch time). To up the experience, have your ikan with the stall’s equally famous air asam.
Eat it at: Kedai Kak Jat
You can get this bread dish at pretty much any mamak stall in town, but for a plate (or two) of some of the best roti canai in town, head to Valentine Roti. The 20-year-old roadside stall’s roti kosong (plain roti canai) is light and crispy with a slight sweetness; it’s tasty enough to eat on its own, but you’ll want to dip it in the dal, sambal and mutton curry for the full experience. For a wider (if more peculiar) range of roti, head to Restoran Murni SS2 for its Roti Hawaii (roti stuffed with minced meat, eggs, cheese, sausages and pineapples) and Roti Fujima (roti with bananas and two scoops of corn ice cream). To learn more, see our guide to the different types of roti you'll find at a mamak.
This highly customisable and affordable roadside burger is a Malaysian icon, and while you can find at least one stall operating in every neighbourhood, some of the finest Ramly burgers can be found at Brother John Burger Stall in Damansara Uptown. Try their famous Master Burger: two Ramly beef/chicken patties with egg and cheese and black pepper sauce. For more, see our list of KL’s best Ramly burger stalls.
Eat it at: Brother John Burger Stall
The premise is simple: a quarter of a banana leaf is laid before you, sides are (artfully) arranged on it, next comes the rice, and lastly, a generous ladle of aromatic curry. Pair it with rasam and papadum, and dig right in (with your fingers!). Somewhere along the line, KL-ites have made this South Indian dish a Malaysian one with the addition of items such as fried chicken and fried fish. Not that we mind, anyway. For your next banana leaf fix, check out Time Out KL’s list of best banana leaf restaurants in town.
This modest 26-year-old stall in Bangsar churns out appam (fermented rice batter pancake) so good you’ll wonder why it isn’t a popular place for weekend brunch. While you can opt for plain appam with coconut milk, we go weak for the brown sugar variety; coconut milk and brown sugar are liberally applied onto appam batter and swirled in a pan so the edges remain fluffy while the sides are brittle. The sugar is intentionally left in chunks, so every bite hits you with a burst of caramel-coconut goodness.
Eat it at: Om Shakti Chelo’s Appam Stall
If there was a dish that inspires our midnight cravings, it would be char siew. Not just any char siew but Spring Golden’s – it’s glorious to look at; even better to eat. Perfectly caramelised, nicely charred and sticky from all angles, the honeyed barbecued pork is rimmed with a layer of translucent fat, hence the name: ‘glass’ char siew. If we had it our way, we’d glaze every centimetre of the meat with the restaurant’s special char siew sauce and eat it on its own without rice.
Eat it at: Restoran Spring Golden
Loke Yun is a famous Hainanese chicken rice institution in town. You have to order at least half a chicken. That’s the rule. But the farm chicken, trimmed of excess fat, is so tender and moist that our fork goes through without resistance. The crowning glory however, is the rice – slightly sticky but extremely flavourful, and cooked in rich chicken stock. Eat with their chilli-ginger condiment, and you’ll find yourself the ultimate Malaysian comfort food.
Eat it at: Loke Yun
For more than 80 years, KLites have sought comfort in the city’s best hokkien mee at Kim Lian Kee – how can any noodle stall rival the birthplace of this hawker staple? You may have dined at its outlets across the city (including Lot 10 Hutong) but only this original stall at Petaling Street opens until wee hours in the morning. A slurp of these thick noodles – coated with dark soy sauce, glistening in lard, and imbued with charcoal-fire wok hei – is all you need to sate that midnight hankering.
Eat it at: Kim Lian Kee
The abundance of gula Melaka takes centre stage in this pleasingly kao cendol at Baba Low’s 486, which boasts a sugary quality that stops just short of being overly cloying. The creaminess of the fresh coconut milk also shines atop the finely shaved ice and amidst the green pandan cendol jelly – a combination that makes this local dessert such a favourite.
Eat it at: Baba Low’s 486