If you’ve browsed my blog or looked at my social media for more than five minutes then you already know I LOVE to eat. When I visitied Kuala Lumpur for the first time recently I was introduced to the team at Simply Enak. An innovative Malay food tour company that combines western hospitality with eastern traditions and culture. I was blown away by the vibrant and diverse food scene we experienced and have committed myself to explore it more down the line. Here’s my journey into foodie heaven.
Betel Leaf is your culinary jump off point. Opened in 2009, Betel Leaf offers an authentic Chettinad experience and is the most modern of your day’s offerings. Hailing from southern India, Chettinad cuisine uses many aromatic herbs and has several excellent vegetarian options. Betel Leaf can be considered a mid-range restaurant by Kuala Lumpur standards. But even by that standard, it’s very reasonable. 95% of their dishes are under 20 Ringgit which is around 4 Euros.
I’m going to just say it. They make THE BEST Masala Tea I’ve had anywhere, including India. A perfect blend of spices and cream. Try their Roti and Chutney combo. It comes with four different Chutney’s and a huge cone shaped Roti.
Restoran Soong Kee
Your next stop is definitely a transition in terms of décor, but Restoran Soong Kee offers one of the most authentic experiences you’ll have on this tour. What I found especially nice was the enthusiasm of the staff about sharing their culture, as well as the welcoming nature of the other patrons. Even as a foreigner I seemingly blended into the crowd, which was a welcome change.
The soups are all made fresh in a partially open kitchen. You can even watch them prepare your dishes which is a nice treat. Operating for over 60 years, Soong Kee has surely built a name for themselves by providing delicious noodle dishes at an affordable price for anyone.
Beef Noodle Soup is the name of the game here. They have other dishes but few compare to their signature. Try the stand right outside the restaurant for some amazing Congee. Fast and delicious. I preferred a sweet version I later found at another stand but if your prefer a saltier blend then this is the place.
Lai Foong Restaurant
The foundation Chinese immigrants have built in the Kuala Lumpur food scene is on full display at Lai Foong. Having survived several oppressive governmental legislations and political shifts in the area, this traditional Chinese restaurant stands tall today as the cornerstone of Chinese-Malay cuisine.
Lai Foong seems like a traditional restaurant but manages to combine the comfort of a restaurant setting with the speed and spontaneity of a street vendor. They even have a “stand” inside the restaurant entrance and the kitchen is partially open air, which is a big trend in the Malay food scene.
Pork Noodles have some serious flavor. Made with three different types of pork, this dish will definitely leave you satisfied. Careful, they’re very high in sodium.
Portuguese Grilled Fish
If you gave me step by step directions I could never have found this place. Actually, I walked past this place looking for food at least a dozen times before being taken here. Located between a bank and other, more established food carts, this Portuguese fish vendor offers up a good variety of fish for those in the know. Definitely a gem and a testament to the value of having a food guide in KL.
The menu consists largely of grilled fish options. I tried stingray for the first time. I wouldn’t say it was bad, but nothing I would order again.
Traditional Chinese New Year Fare
Our tour coincided with Chinese New Year. Like our holidays in the west, that means all the special/traditional foods made an appearance. As our last official stop was in Chinatown, our guide showed us a few of the Chinese New Year staples. I had previously toured this area before but had no idea what anything was. Having a Chinese speaking guide with me made all the difference. Not to mention her extensive culinary knowledge.
We experienced Luo Han Gua, which is a nectar from a fruit which is 300x sweeter than sugar, Ti Kuih, a Chinese sticky rice cake, and lastly, cured quail/duck which is later re-hydrated.
Jalon Alor Food Trail
I’ve been a Bangkok Street Food advocate for years now, firmly believing they have the world’s best street food scene. That was until I visited Jalon Alor – definitely a contender. Simply Enak and Food Trails offer several different food tracks to explore. I decided to explore the Jalon Alor track on my own and wasn’t disappointed. A large and vibrant food scene awaits you, offering everything from delicious roasted chicken wings to Malay staples like satay and grilled seafood.
W.A.W Restaurant is a MUST visit for their famous roasted BBQ Chicken Wings. These things were damn good, easily competing with US wings when it comes to flavor. Also, grab a curry at Alor Corner Curry. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with anything on this foodie paradise of a street.
Special thanks to Pauline Lee, our Food Experience Captain and co-founder of Simple Enak. When you decide to take their tour, be sure to ask for her. She’s an outstanding tour guide.
http://www.simplyenak.com/ offers tours in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.