Asia

What to Eat and Drink in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is a convergence point for multiple cultures. Muslims from India and South Asia, Buddhist Chinese and expatriates from around the world all call the vibrant metropolis home. Like many other notable food destinations on the continent, a marriage of immigrant traditions and indigineous cuisine makes KL a delicious hot spot for gourmands.


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With so many fine hotels in Kuala Lumpur to choose from, how about you concentrate on Malay cuisine and drinks?

Dishes

Durian – Infamous for its spiky shell and unforgettable stench, the Durian is known as the “King of fruits.” Love it or hate it, Durian is the classic Malaysian fruit of choice. Its aroma has been described as a pungent mixture of “cream cheese, onion sauce, sherry wine, and other incongruous dishes.” Just remember to bring a toothbrush and plenty of mouthwash if you’re on a romantic getaway!


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Roti Canai – You can find these at mamak (Tamil Muslim) or mapley vendor stands all over KL. These are the hamburgers and fries, the mac and cheese, the hot dogs and mustard of Malaysian cuisine. Roti canai consists of a six-inch round or square flatbread with a filling (often curried) of meat, fried egg, fish or vegetables. All in all, a perfect take-away snack or late-night treat.


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Ketupat – A rice dumpling wrapped in a tiny basket of banana leaves, makes up the basic ketupat dish. The veritable “tamales” of Malaysia, a serving often comes in groups of three or four, tied together at the top and perhaps filled with meat and/or vegetables. You’re as likely to find ketupat on KL street corners as in a fancy restaurant, though you might get more beautiful weave designs the higher-end you buy. While you can find versions of ketupat throughout Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines, the Malaysian take on this classic is pretty exceptional.


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Kuih – Like afternoon tea, kuih is less a dish and more like a full meal of luscious and savoury sweets. Everyone’s kuih differs, from grandmothers to high-end restaurant cooks. Generally though, a kuih platter consists of coconut milk rice pudding, a few small spiced pastries, and a moist cake flavored with the essence of pandan leaves.


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Drinks

Teh Tarik – Literally meaning “pulled tea,” teh tarik is the drink of choice for many Malaysians. The tea is prepared with condensed milk and “stretched” through two cups to get a frothy texture. Like most drinks in tropical Southeast Asia, teh tarik tends to be sweet. If that’s not your thing, call out “kurang manis,” or “less sugar”, when your order.


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Bandung – Also known as “Sirup Bandung” this rose-flavored beverage is just the remedy to cool down in KL’s tropical rainforest climate. The delicious drink, a popular accompaniment for a variety of Malay dishes, is basically milk with a heavy infusion of sweet rose cordial and sometimes, a dollop of whipped cream. A sip of bandung, whether from a street vendor or supermarket mix made at home, is a definite must for visitors to Kuala Lumpur.


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