Essential guide to Kuala Lumpur street food

Navigating Kuala Lumpur's street food scene. The best street eats and where to find them.

1 August 2019 / Jonny S. / Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur street food can be daunting to the first timer just for the sheer choice alone. This thriving food scene means you don't need to look far to find roadside carts and hole-in-the-wall eateries knocking out some fine street food. But not all is made equal.

Here's our rundown on the best Kuala Lumpur street food along with our recommendation on where to try them.

Nasi lemak

8 Jalan Raja Muda Musa

Kuala Lumpur street food - nasi lemak
A plate of nasi lemak in Kuala Lumpur

This Kuala Lumpur street food is almost universally considered the country's national dish. While it's found in neighbouring countries containing slight variations, the Malay original is comprised of rice cooked in coconut milk and served on a banana leaf, accompanied by anchovies, boiled egg, cucumber, peanuts, spicy sambal and somethings rendang curry or crispy Malaysian fried chicken.

It is usually served for breakfast but can be found at any time of the day. There are lots of fantastic nasi lemaks around the city, but for the best Kuala Lumpur street food try the excellent example at Nasi Lemak Wanjo in Kampung Baru. This small shop has been using the same recipe since it opened in the early '60s.

Pisang goreng

21-19 Jalan Thambipillay

Kuala Lumpur street food pisang goreng
Fried pisang goreng in Kuala Lumpur

More of a Kuala Lumpur street food snack than a substantial meal, pisang goreng is deep fried banana or plantain. Although banana is the traditional choice, plantain is a common alternative and either can be covered in batter (made from flour, wheat, tapioca or bread crumb) if desired, although battering is not necessary. It’s then deep fried in palm oil and sometimes sweetened with vanilla extract or coconut milk, before being served as is.

There are several excellent pisang goreng in Kuala Lumpur, but the best is served from the tiny cart called Brickfields Pisang Goreng.

Muah chee

42 Jalan Hang Lekir

Kuala Lumpur street food muah chee
Muah chee in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown

This decadent Kuala Lumpur street food is essentially glutinous balls of rice. The secret to muah chee is the shallot oil, which, when mixed into rice flour, salt and water, turns an unappetising lump of shapeless flour into a sleek and shiny ball of deliciousness.

Steamed or fried, the balls are then topped with tasty additions such as crushed peanuts, black sesame seeds or sugar and served as an on-the-go snack. Among Kuala Lumpur street food, this one is a must.

It's origins lie in China, so unsurprisingly the best are sold down in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown. Try Madam Tang Muah Chee Queen along Jalan Hang Lekir which cooks up a fine version of muah chee.

Wantan mee

Jalan Brunei

Kuala Lumpur street food wantan mee
Wantan noodles are a Kuala Lumpur street food classic

These Kuala Lumpur street food noodles are a highly popular Malay version of this Cantonese classic.

The base ingredients of thick noodles and leafy green vegetables remain the same as in the original recipe, but the Kuala Lumpur version often adds char siu (a style of barbecued pork) to the top of the dish and sometimes serves the broth separately from the noodles, which are garnished with spring onions and a salty oyster sauce. Delicious.

Most Kuala Lumpurians will point you in the direction of Kei Suk Wantan Mee in Pudu which cook up one of the best versions of this Kuala Lumpur street food.

Hokkien char mee

40 Jalan Othman

Kuala Lumpur street food - hokkien char mee
A plate of wok fried Hokkien mee

Another Kuala Lumpur street food noodle dish which has its roots in China, hokkien char mee uses fat yellow noodles coated in dark soya sauce and laced with slices of chicken, squid and cabbage. Additional garnishes of egg, sambal, tiny pieces of lard and lime juice are also available at some outlets, while the Malaysian version differs to its neighbouring counterparts in that it is stir-fried rather than served in a broth.

As you can imagine, there are plenty of spots across the city to try this Kuala Lumpur street food classic. But if you're looking for the best, try Hokkien Mee Halal in Petaling Jaya old town.

Rojak

Jalan Bellamy

Kuala Lumpur street food - rojak
Spicy rojak salad in Kuala Lumpur

The literal translation of the Kuala Lumpur street food rojak is 'eclectic mixture' – and that’s certainly what you get when you order this zesty salad. The main staple of the dish is a combination of seasonal fruits and vegetables, chopped up into bitesize pieces and smothered in a sweet and spicy sauce.

However, there are plentiful variations on the theme, with such diverse ingredients as fried dough, tofu or prawn fritters, hard-boiled eggs and cuttlefish added to achieve different textures and flavours.

You'll find excellent versions of rojak at Rojak Bellamy along Jalan Bellamy.

Ikan bakar

Jalan Pantai Murni

Kuala Lumpur street food Ikan bakar
Grilled fish in banana leaves

With a literal translation of 'burned fish', ikan bakar might not sound quite as appetising as the dish above, but don’t be put off by the name: this classic Indonesian fare has become a staple among Kuala Lumpur street food for good reason. Wrapped in a banana leaf which imbues it with a deliciously sweet aroma, the fish is then barbecued over an open fire and served with a chilli, garlic and lime sauce.

If you don't mind travelling, head south west of the city to the small hawker stall Ikan Bakar Sarjan Jam whose spicy version of ikan bakar has been drawing in locals for years.

Cendol

57 Lorong Raja Bot

cendol
A bowl of refreshing cendol

No Kuala Lumpur street food menu would be complete without a dessert, and cendol is the perfect way to cool yourself down on a hot Malaysian afternoon or after some spicy noodles.

Cendol consists of coconut milk, green jelly noodles, palm sugar syrup and sweetened red beans served on a bed of crushed ice. The name is believed to come from the Malay word 'jendol', meaning swollen, in reference to the distended jelly noodles.

Whatever its origins, we’re big fans, particularly of the dessert from Cendol Durian Runtuh in Chow Kit.

Still confused about Kuala Lumpur street food? No problem. Try this chef-designed Kuala Lumpur street food tour on for size. Over four hours, you'll be led to the best street eats in the city and learn about it's history and origins.

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