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12 Must-try dishes from Kuala Lumpur

Planning a trip to Kuala Lumpur? Eat your way through the city with these 12 dishes and experience the true tastes of Malaysia.

A one-dimensional bread that that springs into life

A one-dimensional bread that that springs into life

Roti canai

Savoury and versatile, this Indian-style flatbread reflects the country’s multicultural influences. Prepared with salt and butter, it’s tossed like a pancake and often known as ‘flying bread’ as a result. Perfect for breakfast, soaking up dhal lentils, or a spicy curry, you’ll be given a whole one at restaurants, or tasty slices great for grabbing and munching.

Local tip: The bread is often cut up and served with a curry sauce. Ask for ‘roti canai banjir’ in restaurants if you fancy sampling this.

A sweet national dish with a tropical taste

A sweet national dish with a tropical taste

Nasi lemak

Infused with pandan leaves, a fragrant mound of coconut-milk-soaked rice forms part of a daily culinary routine – gobbled up by locals for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Classic combinations include meat, seafood or vegetables, which sit alongside a fusion of ginger, nuts, cucumber and anchovies.

Skewers speared with tasty meat combinations

Skewers speared with tasty meat combinations

Satay

Known the world over, these succulent kebab-like portions come with a range of options including beef, chicken, venison, rabbit and tripe. Roasted over charcoal, they’re presented with cucumber and raw onions, alongside fluffy white rice cakes.

Local tip: Grab a stick and dunk it into the creamy peanut sauce — with a helping of around seven sticks, you’ll keep going back for more.

Squidgy and sweet, a cool drink that’s a real summertime treat

Squidgy and sweet, a cool drink that’s a real summertime treat

Cendol

Mung bean flour and vibrantly hued pandan-leaf syrup combine in a glass to form gummy ‘worms’ that are synonymous with this colourful concoction. Coconut milk, palm sugar syrup and shaved ice top these to add a smooth contrast to the gooey confection found at the bottom of the glass.

Local tip: Toppings vary depending on the stall you visit but you’ll often see jackfruit, nypa fruit or red beans.

Meat perfectly matched with the cool and the spicy

Meat perfectly matched with the cool and the spicy

Masak lemak

Coconut cream and milk are the key ingredients of this luscious and delectable sauce, perked up by a blend of chilli, ginger, turmeric, shallots and garlic. A whole chicken is cooked and slathered in the relish, with lemongrass adding a citrus tone to the union of flavours.

Local tip: A helping of steaming white rice soaks up the lip-smacking sauce.

Slowly cooked beef that’s readily available

Slowly cooked beef that’s readily available

Rendang

A spicy paste mingles with creamy coconut milk and is absorbed into generous chunks of tender beef. Time is of the essence — the more the meat is left to simmer, the more the colour and flavour cling to it. The recipe can be heavier on the spices for a ‘dry’ version, or coconut-milk-infused to make a gravy-like dressing.

Local tip: As a side, you’ll come across two types of rice cake: ketupat — parcels wrapped in palm leaves — or longtong, which is sliced into neat starchy slithers.

Pastry parcels packing in Oriental flavours

Pastry parcels packing in Oriental flavours

Wan tan mee

These generously proportioned dumplings fuse a balance of sweet pork with salty soy sauce. Quick and filling, they sit on top of egg-fried noodles with slices of more pork and a dash of greenery in the form of Chinese kale, kai lan.

Local tip: You’ll track this down at Chinese ‘coffee shop’ stalls. They’ll serve the platter in its more common form, or drenched in a soup.

Rice accompanied by a spiced-up side of your choice

Rice accompanied by a spiced-up side of your choice

Nasi kandar

With Indian roots, this curry-like combo has long been a food-stall staple. Always containing fragrant rice, it’s paired with your selection of sautéed vegetables, fried chicken, or more daring ingredients like beef spleen, fried squid, or fish roe in a spicy gravy. Meaning ‘to flood’, banjir curry sauces are added to saturate the dish in flavour.

Local tip: If you prefer your curry dry, request it without ‘banjir’ when you’re ordering.

A meat broth that drinks in the flavour

A meat broth that drinks in the flavour

Bak kut teh

A more unusual take on a brew, these juicy pork ribs sit stewing in a broth of cinnamon, star anise, pepper, garlic and gai choy cabbage. Perfect for the occasional rainy day, you’ll see residents of the city washing this down with more commonplace black tea.

Vegetable mixes bursting at the seams with flavour

Vegetable mixes bursting at the seams with flavour

Yong tau foo

In every colour of the rainbow, these squidgy scraps of brightly hued vegetables are filled with soft white tofu. You’ll also come across other varieties of this treat, where the bean curd itself is filled with fish paste, or minced meat.

One plate just isn’t enough in this feast of flavour

One plate just isn’t enough in this feast of flavour

Banana leaf rice

Indulgent but oh-so delicious, this is more of an experience than simply a dish. Restaurants generally favour their own take but the platter generally comprises a large banana leaf, which makes the food more fragrant. On top you’ll see locals devour a curry, and a selection of vegetables including cucumber, spinach and beans, spicy rasam soup, dried chillies, tairu yoghurt and papadums.

Local tip: Locals eat this using their right hand only. When you’re done, fold the leaf towards you – folding it away indicates that the meal was sub-par.

Get a big energy boost from a small portion of noodles

Get a big energy boost from a small portion of noodles

Hokkien mee

Amongst a mesh of thick soy-soaked egg noodles braised and then fried, this dish conceals slithers of pork, beef or seafood. Pops of colour liven it up in the form of Chinese cabbage slices and chopped chunks of spring onion. Balance the smoky aroma of the mix with a refreshing cold drink.

Soy-soaked noodles braised and then fried

Soy-soaked noodles braised and then fried