We're a food city. With classic Malaysian dishes like rendang, roti canai, steamboat and murtabak, it's hard not to be food-obsessed. So loosen your belt – you've got much eating to do as we show you the best local specialty dishes in Kuala Lumpur.
Here, the fried chicken is a flavourful affair of deep-fried goodness. Savour the crunch when you bite into skin that hugs flawlessly-seasoned meat.
Buried under an avalanche of minced ginger purée, squid, lala and prawns, the steamed fish here is immersed in a robust seafood stock. The fish is immaculately butterflied and slathered with a thick coat of ginger that’ll make your head swim.
Price depending on type of fish; patin, RM7 per 100g
This classic Nyonya chicken dish has a flavour profile that’ll keep you hankering for more. The thick gravy has a great depth of flavour thanks to the onions, garlic, taucu (bean paste) and sugar for a dash of sweetness.
In the city, Santa’s chapattis reign supreme. Hot off the griddle, the versatile flatbread is the perfect vehicle to wipe up plates of aloo ghobi, mutton keema and creamy dhal. We say get at least two pieces of the buttery soft chapattis at Santa’s.
RM1.50 per piece
Your meat takes about 30 minutes to arrive. But this is insignificant when you’re finally presented with thick batons of salty pork – think layers of oily fat and lean meat with crisp, golden crackling.
From RM16 (single portion)
Step aside, chicken soup; it’s sup kambing for the soul here. A star dish to rival the nasi biryani ayam madu at Mahbub, the soup has meat on the bone, the richness of marrow, coriander. A comforting perk-me-up as Malaysian as they come.
Flamed-licked and imbued with smokiness, the satay here is charred just right. Owner Suhairi Majid threads chunks of meat and bastes them over scorching coals. Dip the skewers in their chunky peanut sauce – they’re so irresistible you’ll stop counting.
RM1.20 per skewer
What started off as a single stall serving the post-clubbing crowd has grown into a commendable Chinese food institution. Come for the classic: charred chicken wings with sweet flesh enveloped in paper-thin skin.
RM3.50 per wing
Here, the ikan bakar is covered in a spicy marinade and grilled in a banana leaf. Have it with the air assam dipping sauce.
A weekend breakfast ritual for many, dim sum – baskets of buns and dumplings (har gau, siu mai, lo mai gai), plates of Chinese pastries, pots of pu er – makes for one of the most enjoyable dining experiences.
Nicely puffed, soft with melted cheese, and sometimes spiced up with garlic bits, the cheese naan has comforted us through many rainy nights at the mamak. Beriani Asif’s version is served with a coriander mint dip. If they’re out of it, ask for susu pekat.
Sort of like a Malaysian quesadilla, murtabak here has chunks of flavourful meat and a subtle sweetness from slivered onions.
Marinated, air-dried, cut into thin slices, and then grilled with caramelised glaze and lots of char, bak kwa (literally meaning ‘dried meat’ in Hokkien) is a Chinese New Year staple. Or, if you’re like us, have it all year round.
RM37.50 for 300g
No manners are required when devouring this beautiful mess. Take your pick between chicken, beef or fish, and watch the owners slather them with mustard, mayonnaise and a secret ‘special sauce’. We love the fried onions for that extra crunch.
If it’s good enough for Lee Chong Wei, it’s good enough for us. Teluk Pulai Claypot Bak Kut Teh serves pots of light and flavourful pork bone broth, a satisfying concoction of meat, bones, tendons, spices and tofu puffs.
RM52 for two
Here’s how you snack on the street: pick your preferred skewers of small bites (an assortment of meat, seafood and vegetables), cook by dipping them into pots of boiling broth, and savour it with hot chilli or peanut sauce.
From RM1 per skewer
This Kelantanese stalwart in the depths of Shah Alam has a bit of everything – grilled quail, gulai tempoyak ikan, a nasi kerabu station. And best of all, a sweet and creamy rendang.
The version at BRJ has an equal distribution of margarine and sugar in every bite, and skipping the extra condensed milk topping for lower calories is just lying to yourself.
The whiff of siu heng wine and clouds of steam are the first indications of a steamed crab cooked right. The crustacean, boasting juicy and firm flesh, is served on a bed of custardy steamed egg, showered with parsley and sliced ginger.
Prices from RM50
Jaipur serves up a good-to-eat-it-on-its-own version of thosai with slightly charred ends. There’s a tinge of sourness that comes through from the dough, but once dipped in the sweet tomato or spicy coconut chutney, the flavours blend together perfectly well.
KLites can go on an impassioned debate about the best roast chicken in the city but nothing is quite as tender as Choon Yien’s. We suspect that the side of ‘oily’ rice – cooked with rich chicken stock – jazzes up the experience.
From RM15 (small)
A staple for breakfast, lunch or dinner, roti canai is close to the hearts of KLites. For good roti, head to Raju’s, where they pride themselves in using quality ingredients. There’s a fluffiness and crisp to the roti canai here, making it tasty on its own. But dipping it in dhal or chutney makes it even better.
Trust a pork bone soup to make everything better. The milky broth, humming with heat from ground pepper, turns the blandest ingredients (like tofu) into main players. Add vegetables (cabbage, turnip and crown daisy) for sweetness, and a quick swirl of pork and lamb slices in the broth gives it pep. There are other soup bases too, but really, why bother.
From RM19.90 per set; additional RM22.20 for pork bone soup
When faced with the extensive menu here, the best option is the Madras thali: an all-you-can-eat, little-bit-of everything vegetarian meal, loaded with over ten small bowls of dishes served on a round metal plate to allow for maximum sampling in minimal sizes.
The crispy skin is just a distraction from the real prize – the flesh, served with a slight pink blush, is the star. The meat is not at all gamey, thanks to the crucial layer of lovely fat that seals the roast’s juices and deep flavours. A smoky undertone permeates the meat, rendering the accompanying sweet sauce completely unnecessary.
From RM12 (small)
The unassuming Sin Hiap Kee attracts customers by the dozens who relish its Indian-style fish head curry. The force behind this special dish is Madam Tang, who cooks red snapper fish heads in a heady mix of spices, tau fu pok and a melange of vegetables like lady fingers, eggplants, tomatoes. Complete your meal with a plate of crunchy papadums.
From RM10 per piece of mackerel; from RM60 per piece of red snapper
Perfectly caramelised, nicely charred and sticky from all angles, the honeyed barbecued pork is rimmed with a layer of translucent fat, hence its name ‘glass char siu’. If we had it our way, we’d glaze every centimetre of the meat with the restaurant’s special char siu sauce and eat it on its own without rice.