Kuala Lumpur has a reputation for being one of the best cities for cheap street food in the world. For only a few ringgit you can gorge yourself on amazingly flavourful, traditional Malaysian cuisine as well as Indian, Chinese, Thai and much more. Malaysian culture is a diverse mix of influences and this variety is reflected in the cuisine. You will find authentic spicy Indian curries, regional Chinese dishes, traditional Malay cooking and so much more, making it very easy to eat well on a tight budget.
Kuala Lumpur restaurant food is generally cheap compared to other destinations, but eating street food from the variety of different stalls is even cheaper. It is possible to fill your belly for a price that wouldn’t even buy you a latte in your favourite coffee shop back home.
It’s not hard to find great food in Kuala Lumpur, just walk out of your hotel and down the street and follow the scent of frying noodles, crispy chicken or simmering dumplings. Start with an empty stomach and walk around the city on a “food tour,” sampling as many different little treats as you can until you are too full to continue!
● Is Street Food Safe to Eat?
Many travellers are worried that they will become ill from eating street food, but this is not as much of a risk as you might think and certainly not a reason to miss out on the amazing street cuisine of Kuala Lumpur. Use your judgment and common sense to choose the right street food vendor. The stall should look clean and sanitary and the food should be fried or boiled before your eyes rather than sitting out all day. If you see a big crowd of locals eating at a certain stand, you can consider it safe.
● Where to Find the Best Street Food in Kuala Lumpur
●●● Jalan Petaling
Start your food tour of the city on Jalan Petaling Street in Chinatown. It’s hard to miss this street as it has a huge decorative Chinese gate at the end of it. Wander in and you will find yourself in a maze of tiny market stalls selling clothing, handbags, watches, jewelry and more.
On Jalan Petaling you can find plenty of tasty Chinese-Malaysian street food, such as the indulgent deep-fried sweet potato balls. You can usually get 10 or 12 of these mashed sweet potato balls rolled in flour and sugar and deep fried for about two ringgit. They are slightly sweet, fluffy and absolutely addictive.
Here you will also usually find a stall selling Air Mata Kuching, which is a Malaysian drink that means “cat’s eye water” It is sweet and refreshing and contains ice, dried longan fruit and rock sugar. It will cool you down on a hot day.
Keep wandering all throughout the Chinatown district of Kuala Lumpur and you will find plenty of Chinese street food dishes as well as Malaysian favourites.
●●● Jalan Alor
This street is known as “Food Street” and for good reason. During the day this mild-mannered street looks like nothing much, but when evening rolls around it undergoes a transformation and all of a sudden hundreds of plastic chairs and tables spill out onto the pavement and vendors start cooking up a storm. Strings of lights add to the festive atmosphere. It’s a smorgasbord of sights and smells and you will have a dazzling amount of selection as the entire street is jam packed on both sides with hawker stalls and restaurants. A perfect food-filled day in Kuala Lumpur would include sampling lots of different treats in Chinatown during the day and then sitting down to a big meal and sharing several dishes with friends on Jalan Alor in the evening.
If you are staying for a while, come back several times and try a different restaurant each time. Feel free to linger and drink as long as you like, as the best part of this street is the fun and busy atmosphere.
Above all, don’t leave Kuala Lumpur without trying one of Malaysia’s best traditional dishes: nasi lamak. It is fragrant rice served with juicy chicken, crisp cucumber and other fresh vegetables, roasted peanuts, crispy salty anchovies and a tomato-based spicy sambal sauce. It is usually presented on a large leaf with all of the ingredients attractively arranged. Once you have fallen in love with this meal, the national dish of Malaysia, you will dream of it and return just to get another taste.
About the Author: Kalpana Kadam is a freelance writer and food blogger who heads to Malaysia at least once per year to get her food fix. She finds rates on cheap Kuala Lumpur hotels on Expedia.