10 dishes I would take you to eat if you came to Malaysia!

Everybody has their favourite local stall or restaurant for food. Today, I share mine with you! The top 10 dishes I would take you to eat if you ever visit us.. are,


1. Bakuteh (BKT) or Bak Kut Teh is top on our list of must eats in Kuala Lumpur.

The name literally translates as “meat bone tea”, and, at its simplest, consists of fatty pork ribs simmered in a broth of herbs and spices (including star anise, cinnamon, wolfberries, cloves, dong guai, fennel seeds and garlic) for  as long as possible , i.e. days if possible.  However, additional ingredients may include offal, varieties of mushroom, choy sum (vegetables), and pieces tofu puffs. We personally have the highest regard for BKT at ‘Restaurant Yik See Ho’. This place is situated in the vicinity of the Pudu Wet Market and is a hot favourite amongst KL-lites. Some may beg to differ or have their own favourites but for now, we bring all our friends here.

Where else can you see the butchers hacking away at the pig carcass (corner alleyway), in preparation for tomorrows rations, from where you sit and eat along the 5 foot way. Grim? Gross? Well, this is BKT, Pudu style!

chinese fried hokkien mee

2.Fried Hokkien mee (Chinese style- fried yellow noodles) has a cult following in Kuala Lumpur. It is a dish of thick yellow noodles braised in thick dark soy sauce with pork, squid, fish-cake and cabbage as the main ingredients and cubes of crispy fried pork lard as garnishing (that would be the square cubes that you see on top of the noodle). Some might say that the pork lard, is the main ingredient. This dish is eaten before a huge night out, after a huge night out, for dinner, for supper .. heck , at all hours of the day really. If you have not eaten Hokkien Mee, you have not visited Malaysia, proper!


3. Banana Leaf Rice. Here in our multiracial community, we have exposure to all sorts of cuisine. Chinese, Indian, Malay.. you name it, we have it. Some of these ethnic cooking styles might be more spicy than others, but I have to say that all are equally interesting in their own way. One of the great south Indian cuisines we have the privilege of eating on a daily basis should we chose is, of course, Chettinad cuisine. This is the famous Indian rice dish, eaten on a banana leaf. Pick your side dishes of vegetables, fried fish, lamb, dry mutton or chicken rendang and to the rice, pour a generous measure of either chicken curry, fish curry, dhal(lentils) or all three. Dig in. Heaven on earth! 

DSC028694. Next up is the Sang Har Kwey Teow. This is fresh river prawns cooked cantonese style in a thick eggy broth and finished off with either flat or egg noodles. The orange roe in the head of the prawn just seeps and infuses into the eggy liquid sauce of the noodles and makes the taste phenomenal.  The amazing way that the tautness of the prawn flesh blends into the springiness of the flat noodles is like these two components were just made for each other.


5. After the Sang Har Mee, we will definitely drag you to eat, the Sentul Satay. Close analogues would be the Yakitori from Japan, the Shish Kebab from Turkey, the Sosatie from South Africa.. oh, and my most recent discovery was the Chuan from China! Meats on sticks over a BBQ – basic yet effective. Tapping into that childhood ‘fun’ way of eating your food. For satay, the “must have” ingredient which gives the dish its characteristic yellow colour derived from tumeric. Serve it up with a spicy peanut sauce dip, or peanut gravy, slivers of onions and cucumbers, and ketupat (rice cakes).. and you have a balanced meal of carbo, protein, fats, and vegetables but tastes delightfully sinful.. not unlike junk food!


nasi kandar

6. If you are a rice lover, this is another amazing local dish that you cannot miss. Nasi Kandar is a popular northern Malaysian dish, which originates from Penang. It is a meal of steamed rice which can be plain or mildly flavored, and served with a variety of curries and side dishes.The rice is accompanied by side dishes such as fried chicken, gizzards, curried mutton, cubed beef, fish roe, fried prawns or fried squid. The vegetable dish would usually be brinjal (aubergine), okra/bendi (lady fingers) or bitter gourd. A mixture of curry sauces is poured on the rice. Always ask for the sauces to be mixed , i.e. fish + chicken + dhal .. let it soak through your rice and just die from the awesome aroma and taste. This is called nasi ‘banjir’ (flooded rice) and imparts a multifaceted taste to the rice. Many eat the sauced soaked rice with their bare fingers and the aroma actually stays with you long after you have washed your hands. This is part of the appeal of eating Nasi Kandar!



7. Charsiew (BBQ Pork) is another great dish.. Charsiew literally means ‘burn with a fork’ where long gorgeous fatty strips of seasoned boneless pork are skewered with long forks and placed in a covered oven or over a fire. The meat, typically a shoulder cut is seasoned with a mixture of honey, five-spice powder, fermented tofu , dark soy sauce and possibly hoisin sauce. The melting sugar plus the seasoning will turn the exterior layer of the meat dark red, not dissimilar to American barbecues. A sugar coat is sometimes used in the place of honey to give char siu its characteristic shiny glaze. Here in KL,  you can get amazing charsiew with a texture so soft and succulent in the centre, sweet and caramalized on the outside, it would make a grown man weep.


butter river prawns

8. Close your eyes. Now open them! See the live and kicking river prawns know that a fantastic dinner is just around the corner.

Lung Seng Tanjung Tualang, Perak (North Malaysia) – everybody needs to make this ‘holy’ pilgrimage to the mecca of  Fresh River Prawns and all things crustacean at least once in their life-time. As a matter of fact, KL city folk don’t mind the 2 hour drive to Tanjung Tualang in Perak just to satisfy their yearning for delicious freshwater prawns. They don’t come fresher than this (swimming outside in tanks) and the cooks actually drop them into ice water for five minutes to stun them before they prepare them for cooking. This retains the  springy texture and flavour in the meat. Butter River Prawns.. Mouth-watering!

northern indian palek paneer

9. Northern Indian food is also spectacular in KL. We would definitely take you to eat, Palak Paneer is my all time favourite northern indian dish because it combines fresh spinach and goat’s cheese in a creamy curry and is really rich but oh, so delicious. Anyway, this is as close as you will get to a vegetable dish in a Northern Indian restaurant. Palak Paneer goes great with anything.. From chapatis, puris, parathas to bhaturas.. it’s all good. The texture of the cheese really gets under my skin. Those rich and chewy square chunks of curd, with that generous slathering of spinach is almost too astronomically good for words.


nasi lemak10. Nasi Lemak is a must! The name itself ” rice in cream” is derived from the cooking process where regular white rice is literally soaked in coconut cream and then steamed to give a gorgeous, aroma of  coconut-perfumed white rice that is then wrapped in banana leaf  or served on a plate and eaten with the other side dishes mentioned above. Sometimes  a knotted pandan  leaf, or ginger or a stalk of lemongrass is thrown it to make the rice all the more fragrant.

the Malaysian nasi lemak has hot spicy sauce (sambal),  hard boiled egg, cucumber slices, small dried anchovies (ikan bilis) and roasted peanuts at its core and to this you may add sambal cuttlefish, fried chicken, cockle, stir fried water convolvulus (kangkong), pickled vegetables (achar) or beef rendang (beef stewed in coconut milk and spices). Sinful and bad for the heart but incredibly delicious.. If you eat this once in a while, it’s not so bad!

chinese roast pork

11. OK, I lied…! Siew Yoke or Chinese Roast Pork is the final dish that completes the ensemble of TEN + 1, that we will take you to eat should you come to KL. I don’t really need to explain why.  I will let the succulent pork and crispy pork crackling photo speak for itself. Have this with a huge mug of beer and know that this is as good as it gets!

We have traveled to many international destinations, found good tasting dishes with some really exotic ingredients BUT we have never found a country with such diverse choice of food as Malaysia and of a quality that closely resembles its ethnic origins and more importantly, the afford-ability.

Come to KL and we will take you for the meal/s of a lifetime!

To my fellow Malaysian friends, which would your top 10 (+1) be ..?

Books on Malaysian Cuisine:


  • themontcalm says:

    This is a fabulous information about Malaysia….!
    I’ll be visit soon for sure.

    Keep discovering your joy : )

  • Out of the 10+1 we have tried at least 4

    1. Siew Yoke in Melaka
    2. Nasi Lemak everywhere
    3. Fried Hokkien Mee
    4. Banana Leaf Rice (during Thaipusam)

    We’ll definitely try the remaining. thanks for sharing this.

  • Gové says:

    Ohhhh I just found the blog from migrationology…
    I’m gonna be there in a couple of week, will try to check all that food out! :D!
    Thanks! You’ve been of much help! :D!

    • ciki says:

      Hi Gove.. great! Hope you get to eat a lot of different types of Malaysian food! Do try Indian, Chinese & Malay for a good representation of our culture and cuisine;)

  • Alan Chao says:

    Hi there, may I forward this fantastic article to my blog?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *