Kuala Lumpur: A taste of the Malaysian capital | Taiwan News


Koala what? This is what some people asked when I told them I was moving from Berlin to Kuala Lumpur. The capital of Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures, which makes its cuisine distinctive.

Jalan Alor is the food street in the Asian city, and this is where my new colleagues take me on my first night out. When darkness falls, the commotion begins. It’s still 30 degrees Celsius, it smells like curry, grilled meat and other tasty treats. The crowd pushes us from one stand to another. It is the start of a culinary adventure.

Our table is full of seafood, chicken satay and lots of rice. I decide on a green curry, so hot it makes me sweat, but it’s delicious. Whether Thai, Chinese or Indian, this street in the Bukit Bintang neighborhood is a sample of the food you’ll find around every corner. In Kuala Lumpur – KL for short – eating goes on all the time. Six small meals a day are quite common.

A taste of China in the middle of Kuala Lumpur

A few days later, I explore the city and head to Chinatown. Jalan Petaling, Petaling Street, was once the center of the Chinese business district. Now, in addition to counterfeit watches and designer bags, it has one thing above all: the best Chinese food in town.

Red paper lanterns hang above the street. There are plenty of outdoor snack bars and small restaurants, some of which have been there for decades. Fried rice, noodles, wontons and satay, various kinds of meat on skewers – as far as the eye can see.

A Chinese colleague recommended Kim Lian Kee restaurant to me. It has been around for over 100 years already and its noodles are said to be fantastic. I order a portion. From the shaking table, I watch an old man throw vegetables into a wok. In the middle of Kuala Lumpur, I feel like the Great Wall of China is just around the corner. A little later my food arrives, freshly made and really delicious.

The food is good and affordable

A few kilometers away, dive into a whole different culinary universe: Little India. In bustling Brickfields, next to the textile and jewelry shops, there are plenty of little restaurants serving dhal, curry and plenty of other Indian fare on banana leaves. I pay the equivalent of € 3.80 ($ 4.30), including a watermelon shake on the side.

The temple of indulgence

I am planning a trip to the famous Pertonas towers. A neighbor who is a local gives me a tip on the way. Instead of eating in one of the huge malls, I should take a detour to the Buddhist temple around the corner. Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery operates a canteen open to the public. But I have to get there early. After 1 p.m. most of the food is gone.

The temple is truly beautiful and its canteen is heaven on earth, especially for vegetarians and vegans like me. The buffet is stocked with a wide variety of vegetables. Even the tofu is tasty here: spicy and not as bland as I’m used to in Germany.

Nasi lemak, the Malaysian national dish

You can find the national dish of this multi-ethnic country as well in the many mobile snack bars in the city as in the good restaurants. It consists of rice cooked with coconut milk and pandan leaves, served with cucumber, roasted peanuts, eggs, dried anchovies and chili paste. If you want to take it away, this treat is often wrapped in banana leaves. Most locals eat nasi lemak for breakfast.

The Forbidden fruit

Everyone here really agrees that nothing beats food except when it comes to durian. Either you hate durian or you love it. I am one of the latter. It has been called the most fragrant fruit in the world. There are often anti-durian signs in hotels and public buildings.

The stench looks like a mixture of onions, cheese and god knows what. This is why people gather here on small outdoor stalls to taste their durian. Everyone receives a pair of plastic gloves before the start of the adventure.

The taste also requires getting used to, especially for Europeans. Durian originates from Malaysia and is considered a delicacy by locals. In Borneo, an island part of which belongs to Malaysia, I discover during a weekend that a woman there feels flattered if a man invites her on a date to eat durian. Here in Germany, it’s probably the end of the love of his life.

Something for all tastes

There is a little more mass appeal when it comes to confectionery. I entertain visitors from Germany. We take a trip to the Batu Caves: a huge golden statue and many colorful steps that lead to a cave in which people pray and tourists take photos. The 272 steps finish me.

But after this torture, I can certainly afford some of the multi-colored candies and many cookies and biscuits at one of the stalls in front of the temple. A vendor draws my attention to his cookies made from chickpea flour and nuts. He has already pushed one into my hand. I come home with a giant plastic container full of cookies. Granted, the mega-package doesn’t last long in the end.

After my first few months in Kuala Lumpur, I understand why my new apartment, like many others here, doesn’t have an oven. People eat away from home, preferably with friends. And around every corner of this Malaysian metropolis, there’s another culinary delight that shows just how diverse this city is. KL or Kuala Lumpur: whatever you call it, this is an amazing place to eat. So enjoy – or, better said, “menikmati makanan anda”.


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