Malaysia’s capital boasts numerous street vendors and restaurants that offer an insight into its multicultural character.
Ethnic Malays, who are Muslim, make up the majority of the population in Malaysia and dominate its cuisine with their liberal use of coconut milk, aromatic herbs and shrimp paste.
Chinese and Indian minorities also contribute, carrying the cuisine of their forefathers who came to Malaysia as early as the ninth century as traders.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a visit to Kuala Lumpur, capital of a nation where the common greeting is, “Have you eaten yet?”
3.00 p.m. – Drop your bags at Hotel Equatorial, a KL food institution that dishes up some great hawker treats and provides a quick introduction to local cuisine (www.equatorial.com).
7.00 p.m. – Flag a taxi to nearby Kampung Baru, a Malay enclave that preserved its village lifestyle with wooden houses on stilts even as the city developed around it.
Get dropped off at Jalan Raja Muda Musa, a street filled with food stalls. As the call to prayer ends at a nearby mosque, head straight to any stall selling satay — skewered, grilled chicken or beef with spicy peanut sauce.
8.30 p.m. – If you really need that picture of the glowing Petronas Twin Towers at night, do it with a kiwi-tini or lychee martini at your side at Sky Bar (www.skybar.com.my), Trader’s Hotel. Make reservations to get a window seat.
11.00 p.m. – You may get food cravings, most Malaysians do. Head to a 24-hour Indian Muslim restaurant for a flaky flatbread called roti canai that is eaten with fish or chicken curry and lentils.(www.pelita.com.my)
9 a.m. – Brave the long queues at Jalan Cenderasari in Lake Gardens for a traditional Malay breakfast known as nasi lemak — a fistful of steamed coconut rice with fried anchovies, spicy sambal, a boiled egg and slices of cucumber.
There, Nasi Lemak Tanglin serves the best version of this national dish. Ask for teh tarik, or pulled tea, but request less sugar, as Malaysians tend to like it very sweet.
10.00 a.m. – Burn off some of the calories with a stroll through Lake Gardens (Taman Tasik Perdana). The nearby Islamic Arts Museum is also a must-see (www.iamm.org.my).
12.30 p.m. – Experience the noise that is Brickfields with the latest Tamil and Hindi movie hits blaring from shops selling everything from prayer items to brightly colored textiles. Duck quickly into Vishal Food and Catering where patrons sit at long rows of tables for a gut-busting Southern Indian lunch.
Within minutes, waiters will heap rice, curries, mango pickle and dried chili on your banana leaf plate. Crush some crackers over the rice and scoop up with your fingers for the best taste. (18, Jalan Scott, tel: 603-2274 0502)
2.00 p.m. – If you’re still making your way past the hodge-podge of Hindu shrines, churches, Buddhist temples and mosques in Brickfields, stop for a cooling Malaysian treat in front of the 7-Eleven store on Jalan Padang Belia.
There is a makeshift stall selling ais batu campur, a shaved ice treat mixed with corn, kidney beans, grass jelly and topped with rose syrup and palm sugar — real comfort food.
4.00 p.m. – Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown marries shopping and eating. In Petaling street, eat the roast meat buns and try the pastries filled with the soft flesh of a stinky, spiky durian fruit while looking for the perfect fake designer accessory.
6.00 p.m. – Swing by the Coliseum Cafe, an old boys’ club that used to be frequented by British colonial planters from the 1920s and novelist Somerset Maugham as he made his way through Southeast Asia. (No:98-100, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman)
Malaysians still flock to the now greasy diner for its steaks and Western food but it’s well worth spending some time at the old bar, drinking Gunner — a colonial cocktail with a ginger ale base — and tucking into some stuffed crabs.
7.30 p.m. – Make a beeline to Pudu, where Chinese miners set up their base in the 19th century and where the best Cantonese food can still be found.
The cooks at the Sek Yuen Restaurant use charcoal-fired stoves to dish out crispy pipa duck, while the crab and egg mix spooned into lettuce cups with a drizzle of vinegar is just out of this world. (No. 313, Jalan Pudu)
10.00 p.m. – Changkat Bukit Bintang with its small, vibrant bars seems ideal for a pub crawl although by midnight you might be back on the food trail to nearby Jalan Alor. The locals swear by the Chinese frog porridge but if you cannot stomach that, finish off the day with an oyster omelet and Guinness stout.
9.30 a.m. – It’s time to learn how to cook what you have eaten. Book a four-hour class on Malaysian cooking with cookbook author Rohani Jelani and wander through her garden filled with aromatic herbs and spices.(www.rohanijelani.com)
2.00 p.m. – Pick up gifts at the Central Market, a former wet food market turned into a cultural shopping center selling beautiful Malay daggers to wax-painted and dyed fabric called batik. Food is also a highlight with Malaysian cooking condiments and snacks for sale.(www.centralmarket.com.my)
3.30 p.m. – End your stay at coffeshop or kopitiam. The best is Yut Kee for its strong coffee and belacan fried rice for that spicy after-taste. Just don’t think about all the calories. (No. 35, Jalan Dang Wangi)