The best local specialty dishes in KL

Take your pick from Malaysian classics such as bak kut teh, cheese naan, satay, Ramly burger and more

By Time Out KL editors |
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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.

Steamed fish with superior soup
Photo: Stacy Liu
Restaurants

Steamed fish at Restoran Kari Kepala Ikan Tiga

Puchong

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

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Limapulo
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
Restaurants, Peranakan

Ayam pongteh at Limapulo: Baba Can Cook

Bandaraya

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.

RM17

Restoran Santa Chapati House
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
Restaurants, Indian

Chapatti at Restoran Santa Chapati House

Masjid Jamek

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

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Restaurants, Chinese

Siu yuk at Restaurant Wong Kee

KL City Centre

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)

Restoran Mahbub
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
Restaurants, Mamak

Sup kambing at Restoran Mahbub

Bangsar

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.

RM7

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Jalan Peel, Satay
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
Restaurants

Satay at Jalan Peel food street

Cheras

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

Restaurants, Chinese

Chicken wings at Wong Ah Wah

Bukit Bintang

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

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Ming Room
Photo: Stacy Liu
Restaurants, Chinese

Dim sum at The Ming Room

Bangsar

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.

From RM9

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Beriani Asif
Photo: Joyce Koh
Restaurants

Cheese naan at Beriani Asif

Bukit Bintang

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.

RM6

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Restaurants, Chinese

Bak kwa at Bee Cheng Hiang

Mid Valley City

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

Brader John Burger
Photo: Rizki Maulana
Restaurants, Street food

Ramly burger at Brader John Burger

Damansara

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.

From RM4

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Teluk Pulai Claypot Bak Kut Teh
Photo: Daniel Chan
Restaurants, Chinese

Bak kut teh at Teluk Pulai Claypot Bak Kut Teh

Klang

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

Restaurants

Luk luk at Fat Brother Satay

Bukit Bintang

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

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Restoran Hatinie rendang
Photo: Joyce Koh
Restaurants, Malay

Rendang at Restoran Hatinie

Shah Alam

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.

From RM7

Restaurants

Roti tissue at BRJ Bistro Corner

Wangsa Maju

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.

RM3

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Restaurants, Chinese

Crab at Restoran Tai Thong

Cheras

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 Curry House
Photo: Daniel Chan
Restaurants, Indian

Thosai at Jaipur Curry House

TTDI

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.

RM2.30

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Restaurants, Chinese

Roast chicken at Choon Yien

Seksyen 17

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)

Restaurants, Indian

Roti canai at Raju's Restaurant

Petaling Jaya

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.

RM1.50

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Restaurants, Chinese

Steamboat at Coco Steamboat

Cheras

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

Bakti Woodlands Madras thali
Photo: Shawn Lor/Pixelpix
Restaurants, Indian

Thali at Bakti Woodlands

Masjid Jamek

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.

RM7

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Restaurants, Chinese

Roast duck at Restoran Sun Ming

Cheras

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)

Restaurants, Chinese

Fish head curry at Restoran Sin Hiap Kee

Pudu

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

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Restaurants, Chinese

Char siu at Restoran Spring Golden

Shah Alam

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.

From RM10

Have these snacks after your meal

Tai Zi Ta
Photo: Hizwan Hamid
Restaurants

The best local snacks in KL

Looking for snacks? Pack them at these places in KL for the city's best local snacks: thick and thin keropok lekor, crispy popiah, kaya toast and more.

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