Why Kuala Lumpur Is One of My Favorite Food Cities

Previous trip report installments

When I was in Kuala Lumpur a year and a half ago, I had a fantastic food tour put together by Farah at Food Tour Malaysia. So I decided to look them, and Farah, up again.

The full day for a guide and vehicle (all food included for two) was ~ US$175. I could eat cheaper of course on my own, in fact this is really quite pricey for the area, but I wouldn’t have her guidance, her explanations, and of course her company as we drove outside the city. So for me it was well worth it.

I’ll highlight just a handful of our stops. The goal here wasn’t to have a meal at each place, but to order a few things and then share them in order to try as many things as possible.

Our first food stop was the most amazing buffet I’ve ever been to (Vegas should learn something!), Mawar Tomyam.

We visited Choon Mee Prawn House. Most of our stops were outside of Kuala Lumpur proper, and this restaurant is in PJ.

Prawn Mee (also known as Hokkien Mee) is a popular Malaysian hawker dish. The soup is boiled using prawn shells, giving it a strong prawn aroma.

It generally features prawns, pork ribs, pork intestine, chili oil and possibly squid.

We stopped on the roadside for durian.

On one of my first visits to Southeast Asia I had been told I didn’t want to try durian. “Stinky fruit,” I wouldn’t even be allowed to bring it inside of many hotels. I’ve seen signs in Indonesia that read “No Durian.”

But it’s really quite delicious, and I eat it regularly with sticky rice at my favorite Thai restaurant in Northern Virginia.

And heading back into Kuala Lumpur we visited one of the best-regarded satay restaurants.

We stopped at some other food stalls as well during the day, and Farah had brought for us some baked goods to try as well. It was a marvelous day of eating and trying new things. And some of my favorite foods as well, Kuala Lumpur is not far behind Singapore as my the food city I enjoy the most (and of course for other reasons Hong Kong and Tokyo are both up there too).

You’d think that I would just find my own way in Kuala Lumpur at this point, but Farah found places I probably wouldn’t (I’d be taking a stab in the dark based on reviews aet OpenRice.com) and I certainly wouldn’t be able to try as many things so efficiently on such a short trip. So I appreciated her guidance very much, and couldn’t imagine coming back to Kuala Lumpur and not looking her up.

She’s from Penang and helped to set up Food Tour Malaysia’s operation there, so when I go to Penang I’ll certainly set something up with them there as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gasp!! You PAID for something; no points? Sounds pretty good, though. And worth it.

  2. Maybe you already know this, but the foods you had can be eaten nearly everywhere in Malaysia. Having lived there for 2 yrs, I can attest to this. The prices I saw on the menus you showed are standard…meaning very cheap!

    I’ve been to Singapore many times and the food is basically the same, but 2-3x the price.

    Having been to 50+ countries and ALWAYS eating local street style food, Malaysia offers the best value (price, quality and variety) bar none.

  3. Gary, what you had is just regular prawn noodles. That certainly is not Hokkien mee although sometimes locals in Singapore and Malaysia refer to Hokkien mee as Hokkien prawn noodles. Hokkien prawn noodles is always served semi dry and the broth is used as gravy rather than soup base. It is cooked with prawns, squid, egg (not whole but mixed into the noodles), fatty pork slices and served with lime and sambal chilli. Also I second Calvin’s point about going to Penang for better food.

  4. I second the Penang recommendation. It’s the foodie capital of Malaysia. Absolutely the best

  5. Kuala Lumpur is behind Singapore? Ridiculous.

    Go to Penang, and the food there will blow out the competition. Penang is Singapore’s older bro (was founded by the British earlier)

  6. I’m with you on the Durian… I used to think Mango and sticky rice was my favorite, until I tried Durian and sticky rice!

  7. Looks good. Some of it is not a long throw from the Thailand street food I spent all last week eating, though these prices are a bit higher than I paid in Thong Lor and Chinatown, Bangkok, as well as in Pran Buri (actually much lower in Pran Buri).

    While I stay away from Chinese street food due to concerns about the oil, I’m not nearly as concerned in South East Asia. Penang is indeed on my schedule for the summer gastronomy.

  8. I’ve not been to this area of the world. The food looks so fascinatingly different. I was noticing on the buffet – nothing to keep the food at the right temps, it was all just lined up on a table with no covers, and no protection. Is this usual?

  9. Everyone’s raving about Penang when, in fact, the culinary capital of Malaysia is Melaka.

    While I’m impressed by the dedication and interest in the food that hiring a guide involves, I can’t help but noticing that you seem to do this in most of the developing country cities you visit. Do you ever just hit the markets and work your way through street food without a guide (outside of Singapore)? Surely there must be sources of information that will lead you great food.

  10. @LarryInNYC Outside of Singapore? Sure, Hong Kong, Paris, Tokyo. It’s a function of how well I expect to be able to get around, how familiar I am with the food, and how well I understand the various review websites.

  11. I would be interested in such a food tour. How long is a full day, 8am – 5pm? How many different places did you visit? From the picture, it seems like a lot of food.

  12. Farah is bomb. Loved the food tour when I went a few months ago, I took your lead with the tour from your other report.

  13. If Farah isn’t available in Penang, we loved Robyn with Eating Asia. We will certainly look up Farah for a tour when in KL next. Great post.

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