This is my first blog post on food so bear with me as I give my biased and not so expert opinion on some of the best tasting local food in Kuala Lumpur. We visited KL during the National Day weekend in August this year. Of course we had to visit the Petronas Twin Towers and you can read about that in my last post which also includes a visit to a new opened factory outlet shopping mall near the international airport.

But travel is not just about the sights and shopping. For any Singaporean traveler worth his/her salt, food is an important part of cultural immersion. There has been a fair bit of culinary rivalry between Singapore and Malaysia when it comes to food. It even became political when in 2009, Malaysia’s Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen claimed that chili crab, nasi lemak, laksa, chicken rice and even bak kut teh are uniquely Malaysian and have been ‘hijacked’ by other countries (referring to Singapore) as their national dishes. Although we should take her remarks with a pinch of salt, it started a storm in a teacup which has been brewing ever since.

Food fights aside, both countries have their own styles and flavors when it comes to the same type of dishes. It’s the diversity that makes the same dish taste and look different, but equally delicious. But enough with the food puns, let’s get on with the main course.

When it comes to local food, no one knows it better than the locals. So it was good that we had relatives in KL who brought us to these secret gems that tourists don’t know about. These food haunts are not found in tourist food guides, and are located in out of the way places. So if you are determined to find them, read on.

Bak Kut Teh

This is basically pork rib soup, but the Chinese name translates to ‘Meat Bone Tea’ although there is no tea in the soup. Traditionally this dish is eaten with white rice and washed down with a pot of Chinese tea. The Singaporean version of this dish has the pork ribs braised in a peppery and spicy clear soup, while the Malaysian version uses a soya sauce based soup with a strong herbal flavor.

So since we were in KL, we had to try the Malaysian version, which is also known as Klang bak kut teh. This comes from the popular belief that this dish started from the Klang Valley in Kuala Lumpur.

Ka Ka Bak Kut Teh

We visited this restaurant years ago and came back again this time as we felt that it had one of the best Klang bak kut teh that we tasted in a long time.

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Ka Ka Bak Kut Teh is located in a corner coffee shop in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur. Note the very run down building and haphazard cooking stalls. This is quite common in most of the local restaurants and will feature in all the other restaurants that I visited.
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Since our visit years ago, a bunch of other bak kut teh restaurants have opened along the same row of shophouses. So you are really spoilt for choice when it comes to eating here.
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The pork ribs are traditionally cooked in claypots and served directly, boiling hot to your table. The taste comes from the herbal broth that is used to braise the pork ribs. It goes well with minced garlic which is sprinkled liberally over cut chili and dark soya sauce.
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Another dish that you will not find in Singapore (at least for me as I can’t find any restaurant selling it) is chicken braised in Chinese yellow wine. The strong taste of Chinese yellow wine makes this chicken broth literally intoxicating.
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And in case you want to visit, it’s a rough neighborhood out there.

Here is the address as taken from Google Maps: Jalan Kepong, Taman Kepong, 52100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

Hokkien Mee

Another dish that has different versions in Singapore and Malaysia is fried Hokkien mee (noodles). In Singapore, we have it stir fried in clear prawn stock. In Malaysia the black soya sauce version is a completely different beast. It’s fried in a wok at high heat with a generous dose of pork lard for that unique burnt taste, that you won’t find in health conscious Singapore. So if you don’t care about healthy eating and don’t mind if your cholesterol level shoots through the roof, read on.

Goodview Kopitiam

There are many food stalls in Kuala Lumpur that claim to have the best fried Hokkien mee. But the best ones are those that are unnoticed by the tourist hordes. This stall was recommended by locals because they use charcoal instead of gas to fry the noodles. The charcoal fire gives that unique barbeque taste that you won’t find in gas fire cooking. The stall is located inside a coffee shop in Petaling Jaya.

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The old master frying our serving of Hokkien mee.
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The small kitchen (which is quite common) and the charcoal fired stove where all that delicious and unhealthy lard-full fried noodles come from.
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We had 2 plates to ensure a double coronary bypass in future.

The stall closes early by 8pm or when the noodles run out, whichever comes first. So if you want to try this stall, be there early. The address of the coffee shop from Google Maps: No. 1091, Jalan 17/27, Seksyen 17, 46400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

 

Bakuteh Hinkee

This is another stall that specializes in Hokkien mee. It only operates in the evening for dinner. In the day time another owner sells bak kut teh which is reflected in the name of the stall. I’m told the bak kut teh is also not bad although I have not tried it myself.

The stall is actually located in some back alleys and you won’t even know about it unless you live around the area.

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Looking out into the back alleys of shop houses while we eat. For safety obsessed Singaporeans, wandering the dark back lanes of Kuala Lumpur isn’t the best idea.
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The sort of open air kitchen that serves up great tasting food. You know that the dirtier the kitchen, the tastier the food.
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Preparing the ingredients for frying. Actually, the hygiene standards are ok. Just that for people who are fussy about cleanliness, this will irk them to no end.
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Mixing the fat yellow noodles with rice vermicelli somehow manages to mitigate the oily taste of the lard. This was one of the best tasting version of KL Hokkien mee that I’ve tasted.

If you really want to have the best tasting KL fried Hokkien mee, then I would highly recommend this stall. Just remember that they open only for dinner. Their address as taken from Google Maps: 787, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Taman Impian, 51200 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

Fish  Head

Big Tree Lin Kee

This restaurant falls under the category of zi char. This is a term we use locally to describe stalls that don’t specialize in just 1 type of dish, but serve a variety of home cooked dishes that you order for a multi course meal.

We were brought here to try their famous fish head dishes. Curry fish head is a common dish in Malaysia and Singapore, and comes served in different styles. However, this restaurant serves non-curry fish head and has their own style of cooking it.

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I presume the restaurant gets it’s name from the large tree that provides shade over it. It’s located on a small plot of land like an island that splits the road around it.
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Again we have the haphazard and rustic feel of all local restaurants.
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This is their very simple 1 pager menu with a small choice of dishes to choose from. Their exotic specialty is the steamed herbal coconut chicken soup which is only available on weekends. We didn’t get to try it as we were there on a weekday. I heard that you need to reserve the dish in advance as they only have a limited number of coconuts each weekend.
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We tried 2 of their specialty fish head dishes. The top picture is the ginger sauce fish head, while the bottom picture is the Cheong Cheng sauce one. Personally, I preferred the ginger sauce as it goes well with the freshness of the fish meat. I found the Cheong Cheng sauce a bit too overpowering and masks the taste of the fish.

The restaurant is located inside a private housing estate and can be difficult to find. Parking space is also limited as the roads there are very narrow. Here is the Google Maps address if you want to go: Behind 91, Jalan Waras 3, Taman Connaught, 56000 Batu 9 Cheras, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

All these places are not on the tourist map and are quite hard to find. The LRT doesn’t quite get you there and you have to rely on taxi or private hire car services. So if you are up for the challenge of finding the best local eats, then go for it!

3 thoughts on “Eat Like a Local

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