A Street Food Guide to Kuala Lumpur

This article originally appeared in Outlook India

Malaysia, an island nation in the Southeast Asian region, is similar to the other countries in the region, in terms of its history being shaped by immigrants along with the locals. This has seeped through, and is well evident within its food culture as well. Today, Malaysian cuisine is a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences, and there’s no better place to give it a try than the capital city of Kuala Lumpur (KL).

Here are some unique street foods every visitor must try for a real KL experience.

1. Putu Bambu

A traditional Malay teatime snack, Putu Bambu is a steamed rice cake prepared in a bamboo tube which is filled with gula melaka (palm sugar), flavoured with pandan (Southeast Asia’s version of vanilla), and served with a sprinkling of grated coconut. It is much like the Indian ‘puttu’, and in fact, there are numerous variations of this soft, fluffy snack within Malaysia itself!

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Pandan flavoured rice cakes getting steamed!

Where can you try it:

One of the most tastiest variations of the putu bambu can be found at the Putu Bambu Tradisi stall at Kasturi Walk (Central Market). Do visit as early as possible, because they often run out. Opening Hours: 10 am to 8 pm.

2. Muah Chee

A traditional Chinese snack, Muah Chee is a glutinous rice dough which is cut into small pieces and coated with a layer of finely crushed peanuts. It is gooey, delicious and often available in a variety of flavours such as mango, lychee, pandan, black sesame, ribena, and of course, the classic original.

Small pieces of glutinous rice wrapped in a layer of crushed peanuts!

Where can you try it:

Madam Tang’s stall at Petaling Street (Chinatown) is by far the most famous Muah Chee stall across the city, and she has been making this delightful snack for more than 50 years! Opening Hours: 915 am to 3 pm

3. Ramly Burger

This unique and popular Malaysian burger can be found at roadside stalls not only in KL, but across the country.

The burger consists of a chicken or beef patty cooked with margarine, which is then enveloped inside an omelette, and garnished with maggi seasoning and Worcestershire sauce. This mouthwatering filling is then stuffed in a bun with lettuce, mayo, cheese and whole lot of chili sauce. Want it less or extra spicy? You can customise your order as per your liking and can have your ramly with double patty, no egg or even double cheese. Just perfect as an evening snack or for the midnight cravings!

Look out for a Ramly stall on your next trip!

Where can you try it:

Ramly burger stalls are setup all around the city and they generally open in the evenings until the wee hours past midnight. In case you don’t see a stall, just ask any local vendor nearby, but please do ensure that ‘Ramly Burger’ is written on the kiosk.

4. Claypot Chicken Rice

To the Chinese, claypot chicken rice is what dum biryani is to Indians. As the name suggests, this dish is prepared in a claypot, along with typical Chinese ingredients like soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, sliced chicken, pork sausages, mushrooms and spring onions. Sometimes, salted fish is added too. 

The ingredients are layered in the claypot and then slow cooked on a charcoal stove. After hours of cooking, this steamy, fragrant dish is served in the claypot itself. Definitely a must try for anyone visiting Kuala Lumpur!

Claypot Chicken Rice – Work in Progress!

Where can you try it:

While there are several stall across the city, the most famous ones are Choy Kee or Hong Kee Claypot Chicken Rice stalls on Jalan Sultan (Chinatown). Opening Hours: Choy Kee (5 pm to 11 pm daily except Tuesdays, when it is closed), Hong Kee (430 pm to 10 pm daily)

5. Shawarma

Not known to many, but Kuala Lumpur has a sizeable Arab population, and middle eastern food is easily available in the city. Shawarma – a global favourite, is particularly popular in Kuala Lumpur as well. This is highly evident by the presence of long queues snaking outside the shawarma stalls near Bukit Bintang (KL’s Times Square) well into the late hours past midnight.

Just another night at Ain Arabia

Where can you try it:

You can find the best shawarmas in town at Halab or Damascus kiosks at Ain Arabia, a lane in Bukit Bintang which is dedicated solely to middle eastern cuisine. Falafel rolls are hugely popular among the vegetarians.

6. Barbeque Chicken Wings

A visit to KL is incomplete without having its signature chicken wings! While they may look like your regular chicken wings, looks can be high deceptive here. Hundreds of wings are freshly barbequed on an open charcoal grill, and the glistening and juicy wings are then served on a plate with some chili sauce. The deliciousness has to be tasted to be believed.

Hundreds of chicken wings at Jalan Alor

Where can you try them:

These delectable wings can be found at Wong Ah Wah Restaurant in Jalan Alor.  It is advisable to go early to grab a seat. With the number of wings being cooked near the entrance, the place is hard to miss. Opening Hours: 530 pm to 4 am.

7. Sweet Potato Balls

While the rest of the world was introduced to sweet potato fries rather recently, sweet potato balls have been a popular snack on the streets of Kuala Lumpur since several decades. This sinfully delicious snack is freshly prepared in local kiosks every morning. Made with boiled and mashed sweet potatoes, sugar and flour, the mixture is shaped into tiny balls,  and then deep fried till each one of them is golden brown. There aren’t many other better ways to start your day!

It’s starchy, it’s fried – there isn’t a more sinful way to start your day

Where can you try them:

Some of the best sweet potato balls of KL can be found at Petaling Street (Chinatown).  The best time to try the potato balls is early in the morning, when they’re are freshly cooked. Opening Hours: 8 am to 4 pm.

8. Air Mata Kucing

All that food and nothing to wash it down? Here is a KL classic – the Air Mata Kucing or cat’s eye drink, which is a fruity drink made with local ingredients like monk fruit, dried longan, winter melon and rock sugar. It is served both hot as well as cold, though the city’s tropical climate tends to veer one towards the colder version!

Click here for a guide to the unique fruits of Southeast Asia.

Air mata kucing
The refreshing Air Mata Kucing Stall in Chinatown

Where can you try it:

You can find this unique and refreshing drink at the Air Mata Kucing stall in Petaling Street (Chinatown), which has been around for decades. Just a perfect spot to grab a quick cooler on a sunny day. Opening Hours: 10 am to 10 pm. 

Kuala Lumpur is the proverbial melting pot of cultures along with a gracious sprinkling of the modern liberal generation, and the same is reflected within it’s food culture as well. A mix of cultural dishes served up with a dash of modernity, it’s impossible to say no to. 

Selamat makan!

Click here to read about an offbeat guide to Kuala Lumpur

Note: Content and photos on this blog, unless credited, belong to the owner of this blog. Reproduction or usage without prior permission is prohibited.

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