As part of our 100 best dishes and drinks in KL feature, we show you the best local rice dishes you have to try, from the contentious nasi lemak with fluffy rice and punchy sambal, to the humble chicken rice topped with succulent meat and fragrant garlic chilli dip.
Traditionally an East Coast breakfast, the Kelantanese nasi dagang at Chunburi is served as part of their nasi campur lunch spread, which means that you can have it with more than just gulai ikan tongkol. But go easy on the lauk – you’ll want to savour the lightly sweetened, almost pulut-like rice on its own.
Bangsar’s most treasured Indian restaurant is built on its banana leaf rice, tucked away on the top floor. Ask for the crab and Kerala fish curries, order a plate of the prawn sambal, fried squid and mutton varuval, and top off with rasam, mango chutney and a basket of papadum – in one sitting, you’re all set for the salty, sweet, spicy and sour.
The mutton dum biryani at Moghul Mahal ticks all the boxes – fluffy long grains of basmati rice, succulent chunks of mutton, a generous dose of spices (cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, garnished with nuts) and topped with half a hard-boiled egg. Ask for a bowl of raita to tone the heat down.
This place takes its claypots seriously – as you walk in, rows of pots burn on individual stoves while restaurant staff exhaustingly fan the embers. Through careful method, the claypot rice here avoids the dreaded overcooked texture and instead breaks easily into loose grains for a fluffy finish. Chicken, lap cheong and – if you wish – salted fish are standard mix-ins.
In the pursuit of perfection, the Ipoh-style chicken rice at Kar Heong is the cornerstone of Subang Jaya. It has three things going for it: The chicken, tender and succulent, swims in a small pool of soy sauce and sesame oil; the rice, fluffy, flavoured grains cooked in chicken stock; and finally, the fragrant garlic chilli dip, holding it all together.
The crowds throng here for a bowl of strong tom yam, but the popular no-frills stall in Lucky Garden also has great nasi goreng. Pick from nasi goreng cili padi, nasi goreng belacan or nasi goreng pattaya, but the reliable nasi goreng biasa or kampung should do the trick.
Nasi lemak: the de facto national dish. At Medan Selera 223, you’ll be torn between two stalls: Suri and Yati. The former’s much raved-about nasi lemak boasts fluffy rice with less spicy sambal, but to kick things up a notch, try Yati’s version, which packs a punchier sambal. Remember, there is no wrong nasi lemak.
From RM1.50 per packet
This Kelantanese dish is just as pretty as it tastes, featuring blue rice (the colour comes from bunga talang), acar, salted egg, shallots, kerisik, serunding ikan, ulam and sambal belacan. The flavours are heightened with the addition of spicy sambal and a dash of tumis sauce.
The spread will have you hemming and hawing; it’s a showcase of over 60 culinary treasures and comfort food alike that’ll remind you of your mother’s cooking – and for cheap too. Pile your plate with baby kailan in oyster sauce, Chinese sausage and sweet and sour pork.
Take in the sights and sounds of Chinatown with a hearty, hot bowl of porridge at the sevendecade old Hon Kee. A standout set is one with thinly-sliced raw ikan haruan in sesame oil, garnished with Chinese parsley, chopped spring onions and julienned ginger. Scoop the fish into the silky smooth porridge and swish it around to cook it on the spot.
Want nasi lemak instead?
We pick the best places in town for a satisfying plate of the country's pride and joy – the mighty nasi lemak. Hunt down these nasi lemak joints for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even supper, because our national dish doesn't restrict itself to a certain meal time – which is why we love it so much.