After spending 12 days in Kuala Lumpur, ravaging the food stalls and putting on 5 kilos, I finally brought myself to make some hard decisions and pick the top 5 street foods of KL:
1. Nasi Lemak
Nasi Lemak is the best combination of sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy, chewy and soft. It is one of the most famous dishes in Malaysia. Nasi means rice and Lemak means fatty or creamy, relating to the rice being cooked in coconut cream. Eaters will often see a variety of sides to accompany their rice including crunchy anchovies and peanuts, fresh cucumber, hard boiled or fried egg, sambal (popular Malaysian spicy paste), and, optionally, a meat of your choice. For breakfast, pick the simple (yes, Malaysians would call this version simple) Nasi Lemak without the meat side. That will give you a healthy, hearty breakfast to start your day exploring the city. For lunch, give in to the temptation and have the Nasi Lemak beef rendang: meat cooked in coconut milk, spices and herbs. If you can still take the heat of the sambal by dinner time, opt for the meat curry Nasi Lemak. Get ready as this dish will delight adventurous food lovers around the world!
2. Lok Lok
While walking on the streets of Pasar Seni (Kuala Lumpur’s China Town), I passed the Lok Lok food stall that stopped me in my tracks. 3 reasons for this: 1. What a mesmerising scene! 2. Wait, so many people are lining up for this, it must be good! 3. This smells delicious! To give you more context, Lok Lok is a popular street food in Malaysia which comprises of a variety of seafood, vegetables, dumplings and meats on skewers ready to be boiled or fried. Be mentally prepared before approaching one if you do not want to be overwhelmed by the innumerable amount of choices as I was! You will be asked to choose your skewers and directed to take a seat at a round table with your group (or solo) which has a central pot with bubbling hot water. If you want a bit of fun, tell the vendor you want to boil your skewers yourself and they will bring them all to you so you can throw them in the pot at your heart’s content. Some vendors might see that you are a tourist and cook the food for you so make sure you tell them! The fried stuff will be brought directly to your table. The other highlight (yes it does get better!) of this food experience is the various dips and sauces that are set on the table: some spicy, some tangy, and some peanut-y. If you are a bit of a risk-taker, just mix them all up, you might be surprised by how well they marry!
3. Roti Canai
Simpler but not less amazing, Roti Canai is a favourite for Malaysians and travellers from all around the globe. You might recognise the word Roti as a type of Indian bread, but, here is the twist: Canai means to stretch and thin the dough with hands. The interesting part of Roti Canai is that you can ask for an egg to be added to the dough! Even after many occasions of seeing the cook at his work, I still hang around while he stretches the elastic bread dough, places it on the hot plate, beats an egg and throws it on top of the roti, folds it into a square and allows it a few minutes to cook. The result: a delicious, flaky, soft, buttery and egg-y bread which will be served to you with a side of creamy spicy dholl. The aroma and textures will transport you to a whole new level of happiness!
4. Chili Pan Mee
Originally a Hakka noodle dish, Pan Mee can now be available at every corner of China Town. I quickly developed a love hate relationship for Pan Mee. Don’t get me wrong, it is extremely appetizing, but it has the strength to burn your gut if you cannot handle maximum spice! Pan Mee is probably one of those noodle dishes that you will be complaining about and yet just continue slurping. The chewy flat noodles are mixed with minced meat, crunchy anchovies, spices (a lot of them!), eggs, and vegetables. I complain about it, but I cannot get enough of it (maybe that is what it feels like to be married to the love of your life?)!
5. South Indian Curries on a Banana Leaf
While you visit Little India, in Kuala Lumpur, stop at one of the South Indian Restaurants and savour the different vegetarian and meat curries on a banana leaf. Be traditional and eat with your fingers (scary for some but still very satisfying)! Malaysia, especially Kuala Lumpur, has a big South Indian community that has, lucky for me, preserved their food culture. Crunchy, crispy, chewy, buttery, oily, creamy, meaty, spicy, you will taste it all in only one meal! What else can you ask for? It is a great option for vegans or vegetarians as you will plenty of choice and will never get bored of it! Consider sharing one meal with a friend if you do not have a huge appetite, as you will need one to eat all the food these generous people will serve you. The fiery curries also have hidden chilis in them that you might or might not mistake for green beans so be careful! You’re welcome, I just saved your life 😊
What do you think of the list above? Is there anything I missed?
See you on the next post!