As one of Asia’s most culturally diverse cities, the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur is a foodie’s paradise. A one-stop shop where Malaysia’s own sweet treats and delicacies compete for your attention against Hainanese chicken, North Indian curries, English tea houses and a thriving speciality café scene.
It’s pretty easy to be overwhelmed by everything on offer, so we’ve rounded up a list of the essential spots you have to eat and drink at during a Kuala Lumpur stay — from a street-side ramly burger to banana leaf restaurants, picture-perfect desserts, unforgettable fried chicken and foie grass served in a skyscraper overlooking the city.
And with AirAsia’s new direct flights to KL from Sydney, Perth and Melbourne — as of November, but available to book now — there’s never been an easier time to head over. Whether you’re planning on visiting Malaysia for a good time and a long time or having an extended stopover before moving onwards, KL’s combination of world-class restaurants and mind-blowing street eats will have you stuffed silly.
The Essential Nasi Lemak
If you don’t have a Nasi Lemak in Malaysia, did you really even visit? This classic rice dish is a fave from breakfast to dinner, as the coconut cream-soaked rice is an unbelievably fluffy, lightly sweet base that undercuts spicy sambal and works perfectly with crunchy peanuts, boiled egg and fried Ikan Bilis, AKA anchovies. It’s hard to go past the Lemak at Village Park, a staple of KL’s dining scene for more than a decade, but if you’re feeling adventurous, add some fried innards at Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa Kampung Baru.
Ramly burgers aren’t one thing: these street-side burgers are characterised by their endless customisation, with stalls boasting long, intimidating choose-your-own-adventure menus. While not always the most photogenic or Instagrammable meal out, these burgers — where meat patties are encased with fluffy egg — are the perfect fuel for a big day of exploring.
You’ll find them everywhere, but our pick is the Brother John Burger Stall, found in Damansara Uptown: grab their ‘Master’ burger, which combines a beef and chicken patty into one unforgettable, super-filling burger.
Banana Leaf Rice
While banana leaf rice isn’t strictly Malaysian, the city’s South Indian diaspora has made this dish into a staple of KL cuisine, a delicious, simple and ultra-hearty spread of rice and sides served on a banana leaf.
Usually eaten with your hands, the meal can get a little messy, but we’re all for it: just pick your curry, vegetable and choice of meat on top and you’re good to go. Yap Kee near Klang Railway Station has apparently been around for more than 70 years, and it’s easy to see why, especially when grabbing the mutton on top. And the drinks are nothing to sneeze at, either: the kedondong, a June plum juice, is the perfect light and sweet drink to undercut the meal.
For a luxe retreat from KL’s busy streets, The Majestic Hotel offers a delicious English-style high tea with scones, finger sandwiches, cakes, pastries, quiches and top-notch tea. Or head to the 53rd floor of Banyan Tree KL for Altitude, a tea-time venue that matches jaw-dropping views with chocolate mousse, strawberry macarons and foie gras.
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If you’re looking for a way to cap off the night in style, hitting up one of Kuala Lumpur’s many chic rooftop bars is always a great shout. For a sleek, city-girl moment, check out Claret Wine Bar or SkyBar, and for epic views and laid-back sunsets and balmy nights, try Fuego or Heli Lounge Bar.
And that’s just scratching the surface of Kuala Lumpur’s food scene, best experienced by wandering around and letting your intrigue guide you as you pass by street vendors and shops. What are you waiting for?
To celebrate being crowned the World’s Best Low Cost Airline at the Skytrax World Airline Awards 2022 for the 13th consecutive year, AirAsia has put millions of flights on sale this week across its vast network. They start from $189 to Auckland, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok direct from Australia.