A Taste of Kuala Lumpur with Food Tour Malaysia
“Oh you’ll love the food,” was the instant reaction whenever I told anyone I was planning a trip to Malaysia. “It’s the best thing about the place.” Having an aversion to all things hailing from the sea, I was skeptical. Was Malaysian food really for me? I knew I’d have to give it a try to find out, and how better to taste the local food than through locals’ eyes (or tastebuds)? So I set out on an evening with Food Tour Malaysia to discover for myself if Malaysian food would live up to its hype.
I met the group outside a metro (LRT) station outside the city center, which they later explained was both to avoid rush hour traffic and to experience the more authentic food found in residential areas. Our guide for the evening was Farah, a Kuala Lumpur native who prefaced the tour by telling us just how much Malaysians love to eat. She was joined by our driver Charles, and, together, the two were warm, funny, and knowledgeable. The other members of my five-person tour group were fellow North Americans, one other American and three Canadians, all of whom proved to be excellent company.
Farah began the tour by explaining that Malaysian food, much like Malaysian culture as a whole, is influenced by the country’s three main ethnic groups: Malay, Malaysian Chinese, and Malaysian Indian. Our stops throughout the night would take us through each of these cuisines, letting us try the best of each and teaching us about each group’s history in Malaysia.
Stop one: Malay food. The Malay are Malaysia’s largest ethnic group (could you guess by the name?), making up 50.3% of the population. By law, they are required to practice Islam, whereas the other ethnic groups are granted a choice of religion. Charles drove us (oh how nice to be driven instead of walking through Kuala Lumpur’s humid heat!) to a typical Malaysian food court with a plethora of stalls serving a variety of food. There, we began with refreshing sweet tea, followed by dried fish sticks, almost like a fish jerky.
Next came a goat stew, and — people who know me — you may fall off your seats. My adventurous side is nonexistent when it comes to trying meats, but I still tasted a bit. And it was good! After that, we tried what may be Malaysia’s most popular food, nasi lemak, coconut rice with egg, hot sauce, and anchovies wrapped in a banana leaf. We tasted some raw egg with bread and followed that up with a selection of local desserts, and then we wandered around the market watching how the foods are made.
After our time there, Charles drove us to our second destination to focus on Malaysian Chinese food. The Malaysian Chinese make up almost 25% of the country’s population, and the majority descend from people who immigrated there in the early and mid-twentieth century. This stop had us trying specialties from a variety of stalls, including duck (none for me, thanks!), popiah (Malaysian fresh spring rolls), fried pork, hokkien mee (according to Farah, these noodles just do not compare anywhere outside of KL!), and buns. We were stuffed and content, but still there was more to come!
We made a quick pit stop to taste a few types of apam (Malaysian pancakes) before arriving at our last destination, a Malaysian Indian restaurant. This third primary ethnic group makes up just over 7% of the population but still have a large influence, especially on the food. At this stop, in addition to the massive flatbread pictured in the first photo, we tasted chicken and various curries paired with roti canai. This had to be my favorite stop of the night, mainly because picky ol’ me was able to eat everything served, but also due to the great conversation that topped off the food.
A group member mentioned that they had not yet seen Malaysia’s famous Petronas Towers, so Charles and Farah kindly took us there as a bonus stop before dropping us off at each of our accommodations. I was sad to see the night come to an end but also stuffed to the brim and ready for bed!
Believe the hype: Malaysian food is delicious (especially if you’re less picky than I!) and diverse, and it’s especially fantastic when you have a local or a tour guide showing you the best of the best. The evening felt like we had joined a few old friends for a night on the town, and I arrived back at my hostel with a huge smile on my face after hugging lovely Farah and Charles goodbye. Food Tour Malaysia was the highlight of my time in Kuala Lumpur, and it’s a wonderful way to experience the cuisine KL has to offer. Stomachs growling yet?