Many call it “that country above Singapore.” Others call it “that place with nice beaches.” My friends call it “that place that requires a 26-hour flight.” I call it home. Often visited for its tropical climate and beautiful beaches, Malaysia has much to offer with its food, nightlife, shopping, and let’s be real… even more food.
As an already multicultural country with a Malay, Chinese, Indian and Native population, Malaysia is host to many diasporas as well. Japanese, Australian and Korean populations flourished in Malaysia, so there will never be a lack of a variety of cuisines to choose from when the stomach beckons.
However, don’t spend your days in Malaysia just complaining about the heat (like I do). Take in the sights and sweat up an appetite. Malaysia has many cities, beaches and adventures to offer, but as a Kuala Lumpur native, I am writing this to bring you through the streets and eats of Malaysia’s capital city. These are the top three spots to eat, live, and drink: Kuala Lumpur style.
Malaysia is home to some of the world’s most diverse palettes with food influenced by China, India and Malay influences. Summing it up in three restaurants will not do the Malaysian food scene any justice, but they are all must visits if you want to get down with the locals.
Madam Kwan’s has been for years the spot to hit up for good, classic Malaysian cuisine. Serving dishes like rendang (Malay spicy beef dish), nasi lemak (coconut rice with condiments such as fried anchovies and a boiled egg), nasi bojari (tri-colored rice with side dishes like fried chicken) and even Char Kuey Teow (Malaysian fried flat rice noodles), Madam Kwan’s almost always hits the spot and gives tourists and Malaysians alike a good roundup of Malaysian dishes from around the country.
Often seen with a line in popular locations like the city center mall, amongst numerous others, Madam Kwan’s is a must-visit for first-time visitors to the city.
Original Kayu Nasi Kandar
In three words: perfect after-midnight spot. Serving up nasi kandar (a classic Malaysian dish originating from the north consisting of steamed rice and a variety of dishes and curries) amongst other dishes such as mee goreng (fried noodles) and their amazing roti tisu (a tissue-thin sweet flatbread), Kayu is the perfect spot to hit up after a night out or if you need a hangover breakfast.
Restoran Ah Wa @ Jalan 222
With its extremely Malaysian name (Restoran means restaurant; Ah Wa is most likely the nickname of the owner; Jalan 222 means Street 222), is where you would definitely be immersed with the local Malaysian Chinese citizens. Usually packed as hell during dinner hours, Ah Wa plates up the best Hokkien mee (wok-fried noodles with black sauce, pork cracklings and shrimp) in the city, fresh from a wok.
Ah Wa is a low-key version of a Malaysian hawker center, an open-air complex with vendors selling freshly cooked food from small stalls. But the main attraction here is definitely the fried Hokkien mee. Enjoy it while you sip on your choice of drink from your favorite Coca-Cola to Malaysian plum juice.
Kuala Lumpur is one of Southeast Asia’s hidden gems with crazy nightlife, beautiful architecture and an up-and-coming arts scene. Spend your days in the comfort of air-conditioned shopping malls, visiting alleyways filled with art, and adventuring through the streets of the city center. Here are three things you definitely do not want to miss when in the city.
Petronas Twin Towers
Any visitor to the city cannot miss this amazing piece of architecture in the city, which is probably our most famous building. These landmarks were part of the world’s tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004 and still remain to be the world’s tallest twin towers.
There really is no bad time to admire the structure as it looks beautiful both during the day, as the sunlight reflects off its steel and glass facade, and night, when the lights are on in full power and illuminate the skyline.
Pro tip: the Twin Towers sit atop Kuala Lumpur’s huge city mall so it is definitely a good idea to cool down inside. Also, stop by Zouk nightclub, should you be in the city center during the late hours for a one-of-a-kind clubbing experience.
Heli Lounge Bar
Located in one of the tallest buildings on the Kuala Lumpur skyline, this bar/lounge is the perfect spot to hit up during sunset before you get your night started. This is a truly unique experience you will have while you’re in the city – sipping a drink whilst standing atop a helipad, staring out into the sunset.
Grab a bite in the restaurant, walk up to the helipad with your drink and hunt down a table from which to admire the to-die-for views. Looking at the skyline from Helipad is very much like getting front row seats at a concert; you get unobstructed views of the city and you get to enjoy it with your friends.
Get away from the bustle of the city center’s malls and head out to this somewhat small and artsy mall to indulge in Malaysia’s up and coming art scene. Find stores owned by some of Malaysia’s young artists and also major brands like Adidas. Dine in some of Kuala Lumpur’s most revered international restaurants, such as Ratatouille (French), Ju Ne (Japanese), and Boat Noodles (Thai). Publika also has a local food court, designed to serve up some of Malaysia’s most famous street food with vendors from all over the country.
Constantly holding events such as art fairs and mini exhibitions along its main stretch, Publika also allows Malaysia’s young artists to showcase their talents whether it be singing (in its very own outdoor amphitheater), painting, or dancing.
Hugo Steampunk Lounge
Hugo Steampunk Lounge is one of the newest spots in KL for good drinks and music in a themed setting. Set to the theme of the movie ‘Hugo,’ this lounge serves up original cocktails and classic whiskeys with an Asian twist. Its unique decorations and classic vibes will have you leave feeling like royalty.
Private Room is a speakeasy bar away from the city center that offers customers over 200 labels to choose from. Owned by seven different wine connoisseurs, Private Room offers five signature, original cocktails such as the ‘Mocking Mistress’ – hopefully, that name is enough for you to be convinced to pay this place a visit.
You have to enter a passcode at the door in order to enter, but this experience is only available to those who plan ahead and make a reservation. Walk-ins usually have to wait outside the door looking massively desperate while waiting for someone to open the door to this alcoholic heaven.
WIP is an after-work favorite in Kuala Lumpur, offering affordable drinks and delectable bites to munch on whilst sipping your drink. WIP was initially an abbreviation for work-in-progress, as it was opened during construction. It’s now known as Whipped into Place and boasts classy designs with a new twist. The place is highly frequented in the evening, so reservations are highly recommended.