Malaysia Feeding Frenzy
I’m not gonna lie.
This ISN’T about the beaches. This ISN’T about the rain forests or the baby orangutans they wouldn’t let me hold. This ISN’T about those corn-looking twin towers either, or getting up from the bottom and looking down from the top – big whoops. Let’s also spare the traveller’s enlightenment cuz there ain’t any, and cut straight to the point. We came here to land from one plastic chair to another and feed ourselves to a mindless pulp. Don’t get me wrong, Malaysia is a beautiful place and get extra points for having great food. Although this was what we were here for mostly, we still had to do things like upgrading your insurance and get the right vaccinations for our trip. It was so worth it though, even if we didn’t spend all our time on the beach. Everyone’s happier when they eat anyway!
We came here to experience binge-fatigue and then push through it. We came here to stuff these mortal human-casings of ours to maximum capacity until we were absolutely sure that they were going to burst and THEN SOME. This is a senseless, stone-cold-killer guide to how to
heartburn through KL and Penang without shame or remorse in super hawker style. Here ain’t about looking-good’n-feeling-chic. Just strap on that bottle of pepto and put on that stretchy pants. Now please follow our trail of gluttony. Let’s divide. And conquer.
As a tradition of Lady and Pups, I want to get the bad karma out of the way so let me just start by saying: If you’ve heard of Kangpung Baru’s market and are thinking of going – don’t. Two words – Not worthy. Or it sucks. Or horribly disappointing. Take your pick.
OTHER THAN THAT, there are a few hot spots that may be “touristy” but definitely not traps.
Sun Hong Muk Koot Tea ?????
41 Medan Imbi
Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur
This is allegedly the most famous “Bak Kut Teh” in KL (don’t bother trying to match the spelling because they are all different), which literally translates into “pork-rib-tea”. But there’s no “tea” in the ingredients, instead, it’s a concoction of pork and Chinese medicinal herbs served in clay pot. Among the other Bak Kut Teh we’ve tackled, this is the strongest in flavor and aroma. There are other Bak Kut Teh alongside the same street but this one is clearly dominant in traffic flow. Many would argue that a side of “you tiao” (a long trip of fried dough cut into pieces) is a must companion. Quickly dipped into the soup, the dough will partially soak up the juice while retaining the crispy exterior. I, too strongly recommend it.
Jalan Alor Night Market ?????
Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur
Starting from Changkat Bukit Bintang to Jalan Tong Shin (both street names), the entire street of Jalan Alor turns into a neon-flashing, vendors-howling and wok-spinning food fest at night. At first glance, a repetition of vendors all trying to sell you the exact same thing, an all-in-one coagulation of every Malaysian street foods, may send a tourist-trap-signal flashing in your face but Noooo… It ISN’T. When we finally decided on the first vendor (closest to Changkat Bukit Bintang) because it had the most traffic flow and sat down, we were handed one of the best bites of culinary enlightenment on this trip. Or maybe we were just lucky and ordered the right things which were:
- Charcoal grilled chicken wings
- Blood cockles on half-shell, stir-fried with curry leaves
- Fish grilled with mashed curry on banana leaves with a spicy-tangy sauce that’s heavenly
- Jumbo shrimp with… some crispy-stringy coconut stuff…
During our travels, we always somehow managed to sniff out a few hidden jewels off the beaten track by chance. These are of the essence that makes traveling exciting and addictive for us, and here’s a few to share with you.
Corner of Jalan Barat and Jalan Imbi
Jalan Imbi & Jalan Barat
Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur
Here is a small corner that’s a parking lot at day, but a gathering of food vendors after 5pm. Among these vendors, there’s a stall in the middle that sells Nyonya (the fushion between Chinese and Malays) desserts. When we found it at around 6pm, they were almost sold out and we got our hands on the last few pieces. Their Nyonya cakes are of very good qualities which, believe it or not, is difficult to find during this trip. It is very worth the try if you find yourself wondering around that area before 6pm, after which they’d be completely sold out.
12 Jalan Sultan Ismail
12 Jalan Sultan Ismail
Kuala Lumpur, 50250 Kuala Lumpur
During Ramadan month from 6pm to 9pm, a street-line of food vendors with blue awnings fills Jalan Sultan Ismail from Jalan Bukit Bintang, and seeps into Jalan Berangan. The variety ranges from charcoal grilled wings, Nasi Lemak (coconut milk rice), to all other kinds of Malaysian snack I couldn’t even name. Among which I found the most note-worthy is the Mamak (a fushion between Indians and Malays) buffet topped with the crown-jewel of its offerings – the Mamak fried chickens. There are a few Mamak buffets on this street, but I’m gonna give you a crystal-clear instruction to skip the ones on the corner and go for the big one in the middle with two giant frying-woks by the street (clear?). Their fried chickens are so freak’n AWESOME that they’ll give Popeyes and KFC naked-in-front-of-schoolmates dreams. Their biryani rice and curries are of EXCELLENT quality as well.
China Town – Kim Lian Kee ???
49 Jalan Petaling
City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
KL China Town is like any other China Town which is bound to have a lot of craps selling fake craps. But if you ignore all that, there are delicious things to be found in all corners. Perhaps because we went during the day when all the food stalls were still in hibernation, so we didn’t find much. But even so, there are still a couple of things worth noting. Kim Lian Kee is famed for their Hokkan Stir-fry Noodle, with a prominent smoky flavor and dark, caramely sauce. It is fairly greasy and left us with lardy mouth with a lingering lardy flavor but… hey, THAT’S why it’s so good.
Even during the day there are tasty snacks alongside of the streets such as curry puffs or iced winter melon tea. We also sampled this giant pancakes with crispy exterior and tender-buttery center stuffed with crushed peanuts.
Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpu
We were quite bummed that we found out about this wet market only on our last day in KL. This little morning market within close proximity to the city center is teeming with good eats. The Ah Weng Koh Tea Shop offers excellent iced Hainan tea or coffee, and butter-coconut toasts. This iced coffee from this rundown hole-in-a-wall joint in the middle of a wet market in Malaysia is WAY BETTER than I’d say 90% of the coffee shops in New York (and what we later on find in Penang will push that number to 95%). No shit. This trip has made me love iced coffee as much as I did before and I didn’t think that was possible. When I mentioned this to a friend of mine, she recommended that I Meet JoeFroyo. I was a little confused at first, until she explained that doing a bit of research into this company will keep my love of iced coffee going, even after this trip.
Just a random selection from a number of food stalls in the market gave us a great Wonton Lao Mian, and a laksa (curry noodle) that tops the best one we’ve had in Beijing and Hong Kong. Seriously who knew.
Now we are in Penang, said to be the food capital of Malaysia if you can imagine all of the above are just warm-ups. And it is quite true as we found out that everything here is… even better than KL. Here are SOME of the culinary highlights we would like to share. But first:
*Tourists Trap Alerts: Gurney Drive Night Market – Located by the northern beach around all the fancy hotels, but deemed extremely SO-SO by the locals and said to be only visited by tourists who don’t want to make extra effort…
Other than that:
Sin Guat Keong Coffee Shop ?????
Lebuh Kimberley & Lebuh Cintra
Georgetown, 10200 Pulau Pinang
There are MANY old-school coffee shops on every corner in George Town and we were lucky to have an excellent one sitting close to our hotel. Excellent because NOT ONLY that they serve OMG-IT’S-SUPER-GOOD iced coffee, but they also have food stalls set up in front of it, serving ALSO-OMG-IT’S-SUPER-GOOD rice noodle rolls and Hokkan shrimp noodles. Do NOT underestimate these iced coffee that comes in a plastic take-away bag!! It is just as good IF NOT BETTER than the BEST COFFEES you can get ANYWHERE! Even though Penang is famed for its “white coffee” (light roast), but we found that these dark coffee made from beans that the coffee shop owners roast themselves, are just richer and more aromatic/pungent. We were so hooked onto these plastic-bagged coffee that we consume 3 bags/day on average and brought back with us 4 kg of coffee beans…
Among the Zhu Chang Fen (rice noodle rolls) and Hokkien Shrimp Noodle, what we had in this coffee shop were the best ones. Their Zhu Chang Fen has a perfect, chewy texture that the word “bouncy” comes to mind. And the Shrimp Noodle has a broth that’s the most flavorful compare to the other contenders.
No 6 Jalan Hutton
Georgetown, 10050 George Town
This the most famous coffee shop in Penang beloved by the locals. It is a little further away from our hotel and there’s no additional food vendors around, but their iced-coffee is the BEST one we’ve had on this entire trip. You can’t talk about their iced-coffee without mentioning their customer service. It was amazing! I wouldn’t be surprised if they had incorporated a type of POS system that could help to make the running of their business better, (you can see this page for more information). My friend did it herself not so long ago, and her restaurant has never been managed better. So, I’m alsmost certain this shop did too because you just couldn’t fault anything about them, or their iced-coffee. For some reason it’s official address – No 6 Jalan Hutton – is a block away from where we mapped it on our iPhone using GPS, but you could be sure that it’s somewhere on the street of Jalan Hutton between Jalan Penang and Jalan Transfer. They also sell their in-house-secret-roast coffee beans by kg.
During breakfast time, little lovely poaches of Nasi Lemak (coconut milk rice) were placed on every table even before ordering. This is such an ingenious way of food wrapping! Natural, bio-degradable, toxic-free and visually pleasing, I mean what does the rest of the world do with their banana leaves??!
177 Jalan Penang, Georgetown, 10000
Georgetown, Pulau Pinang
Guys. The INFAMOUS. The NOTORIOUS. The ONE-AND-ONLY. The 24hr Nasi Kandar joint known as theeee… (drumming…) LINE CLEAR! Uhm… how famous is this place? If by saying nothing but just that – when we asked the locals in KL if Penang is good for eating and they said only, “YES. Line Clear!” – then you’d know how this hole-in-a-wall is representative of the food scene in Penang. More precisely, representative of the fushion cuisine between Indians and Malays that we’ve come to know as “Mamak”. Or I could just say – that Jason the doubter who previously REFUSED to come in contact with this joint (it’s a cat thing…), later couldn’t stop reciting “Line Clear… Line Clear” after trying – then you’d know how unexpectedly transformative this little plate of unseemly mess of rice and curry can be. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. It. Is. Good.
Chendul Shaved Ice ??
Jalan Penang & Lebuh Keng Kwee
Georgetown, 10200 Pulau Pinang
We stumbled upon this shaved-ice joint on a day of blistering heat like finding oasis in the desert. Only later to realize that it IS the most FAMOUS Chendul stall in town. Just lucky I guess. I don’t know if it was the heat or the unique flavors (pandang + coconut milk + palm sugar + a hint of salt) of this shaved-ice dessert that makes it so ADDICTIVE, but it is certainly one of the things I will miss the most from this trip. There are TWO cendul stalls battling each other on the same narrow street, but one of them always has the longer line so it would be an obvious choice.
A little bit deeper into Lebuh Keng Kwee is a vendor selling Assam Laksa which, we were told by locals, is a very good alternative if the more famous Pasar Air Itam Laksa is proven to be too much commute.
PS, There is a laksa stall claiming to be Pasar Air Itam Laksa in New Lane Night Market. That one IS A FAKE. Don’t even think about it.
New Lane Night Market
Jalan Macalister & Lorong Baru
Georgetown, 10400 Pulau Pinang
The night markets culture is extremely prominent in Penang that gatherings of food vendors spring up all over on random streets after 6pm. This one in particular is the more famous and developed one called New Lane. Just like every night market, NOT EVERYTHING is good so we marked a few vendors that, in our opinion, marks the best New Lane has to offer. There’s a couple of stalls serving Char Kway Jiao (stir-fried rice cakes) and they all deliver certain level of quality. It is a good alternative to the more famously known Char Kway Teow (stir-fried rice noodles).
There are more than one vendors wok-ing up this famous Penang street food – Char kway Teow, but accordingly to Tony’s No Reservation, the most famous one is locating by the in-door seating area which I only recognized by the owner’s face from the show. Her Char Kway Teow is more well-seasoned and flavorful than the others we’ve sampled (which is MANY to say the least). On the first attempt we made which was on a holiday, she was sold out before 8pm.
A little deeper down Lorong Baru is a Cantonese BBQ joint which, like everything else in Penang, is tweaked and adapted to local flavors that you won’t be able to find the same thing else where. We sampled the duck congee, braised tofu and roasted pork belly which were all in all, a very satisfying meal.
More Vendors on Jalan Macalister
106-124 Jalan Macalister
Georgetown, 11400 Pulau Pinang
Further down on Jalan Macalister from New Lane, there are more gatherings of food vendors on a couple of corners. You will be able to find foods that aren’t available in New Lane such as this Fish Head Rice Vermicelli.
Lebuh Chulia & Lebuh Carnarvon
300-304 Lebuh Chulia
Georgetown, 10200 Pulau Pinang
This is ANOTHER night market in the heart of George Town that we stumbled across, serving BETTER Curry Mee (curry noodle) and Wonton Noodle than New Lane. Locating near the charming, historic street Love Lane makes it a popular night market for locals and tourists alike. Everything we had here are of tasty quality.
Little India ???
Georgetown, 10200 Pulau Pinang
Centered on Lebuh King stretching a couple of blocks in all direction is an area called Little India where we found very delicious Indian snacks, spice shops and grocery stores. Apparently during the time we visited, there was a cultural-promotional festival going on so the street was filled with stalls set up by restaurants showcasing their specialties. Argh! Just lucky AGAIN I guess! These chicken or lamb samosas are the BEST ones I’ve had with a very thin, crispy and flaky crust and spicy, flavorful fillings.
Sri Ananda Bahwan
55 Lebuh Penang
Georgetown, 10200 Pulau Pinang
A very popular Indian restaurant in Little India serving pure Indian cuisine (not Malaysian-fushion “mamak”). Main entrees are displayed at the entrance of the restaurant as buffet style, then you’ll get rice, sides and sauces with the entree of your choice, served on banana leaves. If we were any good at eating little grains of rice drenched in slippery sauces with our hands, we would. But believe me it’s harder than it sounds so we picked the easier way out which is a good-old fork. It is a curry-lover’s wet dream.
Red Garden Night Market ??
14-22 Lebuh Leith
Georgetown, 10200 Pulau Pinang
We came to this neon-lights-infested compound of food vendors looking for the Curry Fish Head and boy… thank goodness we did. Compare to another Curry Fish Head restaurant recommended by the local, I actually think that this one wins by slight increment. This curry broth is SOOOO good that you’ll want to DRINK IT, which Jason did… When asked by the vendor “Spicy or extra spicy?”, please go for the extra. It’s just that much better. Decent Ipoh-style chicken rice and seafood stalls can also be found here, but the Curry Fish Head is DEFINITELY the main attraction.
PHEWWWW..! Finally! If anyone’s feeling a bit exhausted, believe me this IS FILTERED. Now excuse me. I need to rub some fat-burning potion on my thighs and belly followed by a strict diet of celery sticks with water dip for 10 days before resembling a human-shape again.
CherylFebruary 22, 2013 at 6:29 PM
So glad you enjoyed Malaysia! (: Normally no one appreciates our food.
My mom makes the BEST curry laksa.
You should have came to Klang ( we’re one hour away from KL) the Bak Kut Teh originated here so its HEAVENLY.
My grandma makes a killer cendol (its cendol not cendul! (; )
Mandy L.February 22, 2013 at 6:50 PM
Cheryl, are you kidding?! Malaysian foods are the BEST! Hahaha sorry for the spelling. We saw more than 2 different spellings over there and got confused… We will gladly devour your mom’s curry laksa, your grandma’s cendol (and steal their recipes) the next time we visit :)!!!!
CherylMarch 13, 2013 at 6:46 PM
yaaay! Omg i wasn’t thinking when i said my grandma made cendol, i was so focused on correcting the spelling of cendol. Oh God. HAHAHAH. Looking forward to the next time you visit!(:
SamanthaApril 15, 2013 at 2:58 PM
Stop… stop…stahp!!! I just can’t handle these full HD photos of Malaysian food! :D I would eat my computer screen if i could (but I won’t, haha~). My family & I go there to visit relatives and the best things is ALWAYS the food! You’ve got it pretty spot on – come grab a plastic stool and roll out the dishes!! :) I’m even motivated to learn as much Chinese & Malay I can now, so I can visit there at will! (I’m an English-speaking Chinese.. ^^;) Thanks for this fantastic post!
chuahAugust 24, 2013 at 8:31 PM
WOW. I;m glad you enjoyed Malaysia!
And you’ve got everything pretty accurate for your first time. :D
GemOctober 7, 2013 at 9:33 PM
headed to KL this weekend and this guide is perfect! can’t wait to chomp on yummy Malaysian food… am drooling as we speak :)
Mandy L.October 8, 2013 at 10:01 PM
Gem, you are gonna have a blast!!
HelenaOctober 25, 2013 at 4:27 PM
You have balls, thaaat is true! Cockles? My entire mouth has missed them for several thousand years, if not more. We are so petrified by hepatitis, they are not even mentioned in the brain no more. Since you brought it up, well, perhaps I can muster a bit of illicit memory… When I young-ish-er and splattering in Penang, we used to suck similar hauntingly delicious invertebrates from their tall, thin, spiraling shells… hmmmm… p.s. Kudos to you, in any case!
JasmineFebruary 11, 2014 at 7:16 AM
I’m so glad I stumbled across your travel section on your wonderful blog. We will be in KL a month from now, and I have been researching where to eat. We love to eat street food, but must admit I do normally avoid clams, mussels, cockles, etc. But your cockles photo makes me want to eat them this time around. I want to check out the Imbi Market and I wish we could find the stall where you had the Laksa that you loved so much. The photo of both dishes looks delicious. Any chance you remember which stall it is?
firstname.lastname@example.orgFebruary 11, 2014 at 1:59 PM
Jasmine, OH man… there were many stalls and the absolutely best I can do is to tell you that it’s somewhere in the middle of the market….. :P I also remembered that we arrived a little late and some of the stalls were already closed. So the best time to visit would probably be in the morning I think. I miss KL so much. Can’t wait to visit again. Have fun!
graceJune 13, 2014 at 12:36 AM
Wow … found your site and LOVE it! This entry especially is too good to read I had to skip them along .. the pictures are so good and the food sounds so delicious! Thank you for sharing and if you ever get the recipe for the cendol, share along! :-)
p.s. You cracks me up, it’s really refreshing to read your blog. If only there is such fat-burning potion for real, will pay tons of money for it.
MoopDecember 9, 2014 at 4:08 PM
My wife and I went on our honeymoon to Malaysia around the same time you did. We went for the food as well. Did you get a chance to try the fried banana balls on the street?
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 9, 2014 at 4:56 PM
Moop: No we didn’t!!!! But that sounds divine!!! Fried banana ball…. i might have to make it myself now.
Eveline TanMarch 9, 2015 at 12:57 PM
A note for when you will come to Penang again — we are not famous for our white coffee. Ipoh is famous for white coffee. When you will see ‘famous Penang white coffee’ sign in the kopitiam, it is advertising powdered white coffee. I don’t know where these signs came from, our kopitiam were not hanging them even just three years ago.
The tourists fall for it everytime, even the tourists from Singapore and KL.
Welcome you to visit our island again.
NatashaFebruary 3, 2016 at 12:39 PM
I just arrived in Georgetown yesterday and I think I’ve gained 16 pounds…
I regret nothing. NOTHING.
CateJune 2, 2018 at 2:19 PM
Headed to Penang in a few weeks and thought I’d check to see if you had a guide to it. Pay Dirt! I only wish I’d thought to check if you had a KL guide when I was there last month. Hopefully most of these places are still good, since the post is quite old. Also good to know that the Gurney Drive night market is not the best as I figured we would book a hotel near there for maximum proximity to delicious foods. Are there any neighborhoods you would recommend for people who’s main objective is eating as much as possible in 4 days?
mandy@ladyandpupsJune 3, 2018 at 3:45 PM
Cate, oh gosh I haven’t been back to Penang for so long I can’t really say! But definitely try the ‘Assam laksa” and “sister curry mee” (should be able to easily google the location), which are located quite close to each other I believe.
elharamain tourJuly 8, 2018 at 9:46 PM
Food in malaysia is very good addictive