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Eating out in Kuala Lumpur

Eating out in Kuala Lumpur

For some the highlight of the day, for some the energy source for the pursuit of travel adventures. Food – was never my favourite act but after I discovered Asia’s cuisine that has changed. I am still not a big eater nor psyched dining companion.

I remember my grandma’s urging words to ‘eat properly’ while I was hovering around my plate as a kid in Szczecin/Poland, postponing the consumption of the main meal, already filled up by granny’s delicious entrée, her famous and by all family members acknowledged as best tomato soup of all times, topped by divine hand made (!) noodles. After two, at good times, breaking my own record, three rounds of noodles with tomato soup (I still consider soup a supplement for noodles or rice), I was going to disappoint grandma, again. Driven by the selfish pleasure fulfilment of a child or, maybe just having priorities set early, I never took the overwhelming succession of grandma’s lovingly prepared meals into account.

Tomek’s no better. Beating his parents in patience, who would make him eat, to be fair, in his own time, Tomek preferred to fall asleep on the kitchen bench, rather than to finish his meal. On other meal time occasions, he was trying to outwit his parents by pretending his arms had stopped functioning, which of course, made further food intake impossible or at least postponed the matter, until mum started out force feeding (with minimal success).

So here goes our food testimony in Malaysia, to soothe the mind of parents and concerned. And, to spark the minds of perpetual travelers to be.

Malaysia is a multicultural country of ethnic groups, which is reflected in a fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes. Malaysian cuisine serves a very similar food variety and quality to Singapore. If you are coming here, don’t do it solely for the food, despite tourist brochures that describe Malaysia as a food heaven for local and international cuisine. Don’t get me wrong, the food is all-right but not special enough to warrant a trip. We found some places that we liked and that we will share, so you will not go home disappointed. Oh and, hygiene is a developing concept but stomach upsets are not a problem in Malaysia. Just stick to the eat-where-it’s-full rule. And these:

Malays commonly eat with their hand. They use only their right hand to eat, give, touch or handle anything. If you are ready to dig into your food, you will be using your right hand to touch your food, which is really unfair to the lefties. Alternatively you will get a spoon or fork. Knifes are not commonly used. Hold the spoon in your right hand and the fork in your left hand. Push your food onto the spoon with the fork and eat from the spoon.

With your hands, you will have to let your right hand get as messy as it’s gonna get while you’re eating. When you’re done, you go to the small sink that every single eating place has and wash up. Like here:

Central Market food court Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Malaysia is a Muslim state. You can choose to eat at places that serve ‘halal’ or ‘non halal’ food.

Halal sign at the juice counter. I am not sure what it means to fruit but to animals it causes severe suffering and pain as their throat is being cut open alive and then the animal has to bleed to death. Animals have to be slaughtered in the name of Allah by enunciating a blessing, which makes it ‘halal’ or ‘animal torture’, depending on what you chose to belief. Just think this through.

Halal fruit juice Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

The Malay-Chinese dishes were average at best in Chinatown. It has turned into a prime spot for the one time visiting tourist. You get the predictable target-tourist-scam with hidden charges and napkins, that you will be asked to pay extra. In that case, we ask owners, if they can show us those positions in the menu and, obviously failing to do so, sometimes that is a convincing argument.  Unfortunately, the short term stay tourists don’t care to bother, which eventually restaurant managers see as an confirmation of the legitimacy for their deed.

Chinatown food vendor Kuala Lumpur

 

Most food stalls advertise themselves ‘best’ and ‘famous’. Tough choice.

Chinatown food vendor Kuala Lumpur

 

We frequented this vendor on Petaling Street, selling fresh fruit. You got to know the fruit season though, otherwise your melon might taste like a dry apple. At least they tell you in advance about additional tissue costs.

Chinatown fruit vendor Kuala Lumpur

 

A well worth stop is the ‘sweet & best fresh’ fruit counter at Central Station. We passed that counter so often, the fruit seller would pass over the papaya upon our sight.

Central station fruit vendor Kuala Lumpur papaya fruit Kuala Lumpur

 

Malay food at ‘famous’ Madam Kwan’s restaurant, that claims to have ‘the best’ traditional Malay dishes. Hm. What can I say, not true or just not that overwhelmingly tasty.

Nasi Lemak to the left. Coconut steamed rice, chicken curry, dried shrimp floss, hard boiled egg and cucumber. Curry laksa to the right. Curry soup with shrimp, boiled egg and vegetables. And chilli based sambal.

Malay food Kuala Lumpur Malay food Kuala Lumpur

 

Fried banana with vanilla ice cream. We got a lot of cutlery for desert and still had to ask for a clean set.

Malay food Kuala Lumpur

 

The bill had a lot of additional charges. Service charge and tax charge was added, although not mentioned anywhere in the restaurant. We explained why we refused to pay and after a heated discussion we paid for our meals only. At another counter I noticed this sign: ‘Your purchase is free, if no receipt is issued’.

Receipt scam  Kuala Lumpur Receipt urge Kuala Lumpur

 

This is how some menus look like. You are looking for the small writing about tax and service. It is always worth to check if these apply or not.

additional charge on menu Kuala Lumpur

 

To avoid hassle and save a lot of money, food courts are a great choice. I wish they would have those in Europe. Next to our hotel and not disappointing, we used to come to the food court at Art Deco Central Market.

Bonus features: fresh juice, very affordable meals, no service/tax charges, wide variety of cuisines in one place.

Central Market food bill Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Fresh fruit juice Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Let me take you for a walk around a typical food court. Malay sizzlers.

Central Market food court Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Indonesian influences. Fish is just being stocked up.

Central Market food court Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Nasi lemak with vegetables.

Central Market food court Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

More Malay choices.

Central Market food court Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Thai food is always a good choice.

Central Market food corner Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Mini Wok was the best.

Central Market food court Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Food will look different to picture presentation. To compensate for the missing wok handle, we got an extra fork. That crispy papadum made up for it.

Central Market food court Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Malay cook kindly bringing my shrimp sizzler.

Central Market food court Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Central Market food court Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

There will always be a fresh juice counter with delicious fruit squeezed in front of your eyes.

Fresh fruit juice food court Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Carrot or orange? Apple or pineapple? With no ice, please!

Fresh fruit juice Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Alternatively, opt for the fragrant coconut to go. Imported from Thailand but unique to Malaysia – and a must try for coconut connoisseurs.

fragrant coconut Malaysia

 

The next door restaurant served fresh fruit with shaved ice, which turned into a puddle. The samosas had a delectable chilli sauce. We used to hunt for that sweet chilli sauce in Poland.

Central Market restaurant Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

The omnipresent Mamak stalls or restaurants are particularly popular with locals. A type of Indian Malay dishes served buffet-style, where you pay for what you have actually eaten.

Mamak food Malaysia

 

I chose white rice with curry fish, tofu and vegetables. Spicy sambal on the side.

Mamak food Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Tomek had same, same but different.

Mamak food Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Hiding in the basement or top floor of shopping arcades are usually food courts and restaurants. Many have not changed interiors, giving them that retro look.

Retro restaurant sign Malaysia

 

We watched Germany lose with Italy at the 2012 UEFA European Football Championships at this food court until cleaning staff kicked us out. No one else there. Boohoo.

Food court Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

You can get (some) good pastry, sweet rolls and buns at (some) bakeries. Like this one on the ground floor of Suria mall. Very good tuna sandwiches here as well. At convenience stores in town, sandwiches are not kept on cooling shelves and look accordingly. To the right, a first glimpse of Japanese delight.

Bakery Kuala Lumpur Japanese food Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

At ‘Yuzu’. A Japanese restaurant with all the sashimi and fresh (yes, I mean raw) seafood selection. It is located in Kuala Lumpur’s mega mall Suria beneath the Petronas Towers. And to my defence: the first day we went to a traditional Malay restaurant, the second to a Malay food corner and on the third we found this oasis and on the consecutive days we went…

Japanese food Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

I think we spent a fortune at this place. But is was worth every Ringgit.

Japanese food Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Sushi art for starters.

Japanese food Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

My personal highlight. Oysters on ice.

Japanese food Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Tomek’s highlight. The bento box set. A beautiful arrangement of boxes, bowls, dishes, covers…

Japanese food Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

I love how Japanese dishes resemble the act of unwrapping presents. It’s eat and play. Japanese food is entertaining and divine.

Japanese food Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Japanese food Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Japanese pizza.

Japanese food Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

Back to Malay food. Malays like their rice to be blue or purple and their buns green. I liked these buns but would peel around the sticky sweet filling, just as at home, when eating a Berliner. Why do bakeries load yummy buns with yucky gluey sugary stuff?

green bun Malaysia

 

The winner of all green variety was the green cheese bun.

green bun Malaysia

 

I love to go for seafood (pasta) and Malaysia had plenty on the menu, which was usually delish.

Seafood pasta

 

Malaysia recorded the highest obesity rates in south-east Asia in a survey by the World Health Organisation. Success in the eyes of the obese: only 132kg after the treatment! There are many ads targeting the obese, even on the hop on hop off bus. Tourists are fat, too.

Obesity Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Obesity Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

 

A remarkable feature of Muslim countries, the strongest and widest selection of booze is readily available. I remember walking into a liquor store in Aqaba / Jordan being confronted with Arabic alcohol El Dorado. Walking out, seriously impressed despite my polish vodka-heritage, on ‘high spirits’, the bottle of booze wrapped in a brown paper bag, because the official version of alcohol consumption is that it doesn’t show exist.

Quite a find at the convenience store. 10.8%. That’s pushing limits of decency for beer. Brewed in Germany. What, not in Poland?

10.8% Bear Beer Kuala Lumpur

 

A final word on food in Asia:

It makes me smile, that family and friends are generally concerned about ‘what are you going to eat without getting sick in Asia’. I can only say that Asia is by far more developed in the culinary service sector than my home countries and that the worst we ever got sick , not talking about minor stomach upsets or the effects of booze overdose but serious food poisoning, was in Poland (twice out of three total episodes in my whole life – while Tomek met severe gastrointestinal disorder three times – also all in Poland). We are eating out every single day in Asia because the food is generally great. The worst that can happen is that you will not like the taste of something. This is a truly fussy-food-almost-veggie soul speaking!

 

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4 Comments

  1. Just visited Malaysia and enjoyed all the local cuisine except for the Malaysian style foods – the spices don’t pair well…not quite Indian, not quite Thai, not quite Chinese. I found the spices off in seasoning. I travelled with locals and tried many foods and can’t really say I enjoyed the food. I did get food poisoning on my last day in Malaysia, the worst case I ever had in my life – most likely came from fresh fruit which was prepared in 4/5 star hotel restaurants. I find if you like to try different foods, you will find Malaysia is clearly unique and their food demands a certain palate to fully enjoy.

    • I am sorry about your culinary experiences, especially those upsetting your stomach. Malaysia is definitely not the prime chef in Asia. It seems that a ‘lot of stars’ doesn’t correlate to hygiene standards. So far, we have done well sticking to our ‘eat where it’s full’ rule. If the restaurant is packed with locals, it is more likely that food is fresh and good.

      • By slaughtering, the animal will die instantly.. with less pain. And there is a compulsory rule for slaughter, the knife must be sharp. So, we will be able to reduce the pain. The word animal torture is slightly offensive.

        • You’re contradicting yourself. First, you mention the animal will die instantly – a while later, that you reduce animal pain by using a sharp knife. Don’t you see your reasoning is illogical here?

          Also, scientific studies show that during halal slaughter, animals die in horrible pain, taking long minutes – this was proven by observing brain wave data. The researchers have shown that the pain originates from cutting throat nerves.

          If science and facts are offensive to you – I’m not able to argument with that, nobody is.

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