A food guide to Kuala Lumpur's Golden Triangle

PHOTO: The Business Times

The modern hub of Kuala Lumpur - Golden Triangle - is the city's prime tourist attraction, formed by the three major streets - Jalan Imbi, Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Raja Chulan.

The sprawling space in-between encompasses everything from wildly diverse (and affordable) cuisines and shopping malls to an aquarium and, of course, the much-famed Petronas Towers.

But for now, let's focus on the most important part of any trip - FOOD! Here's a complete food guide for when you're out and about the bustling streets of Golden Triangle - from upscale fine-dining to local, flavoursome street food.

What to eat in Kuala Lumpur's Golden Triangle

  • It's the store in Lot 10 at Bukit Bintang that usually has the longest queue. Their signature dish? Hokkien Mee dish made from bamboo cane.
  • Tossed in with generous portions of pork, prawns, squids and Chinese leaf, their smoky dark and spicy 'mee' or Chinese noodles come in three serving sizes, for S$2.25, S$4.80 and S$6.40.
  • A unique and intriguing concept, the experience is exactly what the name implies. Their vision that lack of light only enhances all other senses, is slightly debatable but worth the experience.
  • Step into this experimental space for a well-crafted multi-course menu that includes over 100 tapas items for as cheap as S$3.20++ each.
  • Located in the heart of the Golden Triangle, this no-frills Cantonese establishment is known to belt out some mouth-watering local dishes, but make sure you order their all-time favourite BBQ Chicken Wings (~S$1.10/piece) and Salted Egg Squids (~S$5.10) - loved by locals and tourists alike.
  • Some other dishes worth ordering would be: stir fried bamboo clams, roast pork dark noodle, and stir-fried brinjals with prawns.
  • A Malaysian success story, this family-run business lays out "nasi campur" - a Malaysian buffet spread at its best.
  • Start with their veggies mixed in sambal sauce and then work your way towards classic dishes like beef rendang, grilled and fried fish, and cuttlefish curry, among others.
  • Located bang in the middle of the food paradise - Jalan Sultan - this seafood and Chinese restaurant has a huge menu but people mostly line up for their famous 'bak kut teh'.
  • This amazingly delicious herbal broth comes with small servings of pork ribs, crispy tofu and a hot pot of tea - all for SGD3.5! Other house specialties like the fish head and Kung Pao chicken are also definitely worth ordering.
  • Feel like digging into a hearty steak meal while roaming the streets of the Golden Triangle? Walk right into The Steakhouse, Malaysia's finest 40-seater steak joint that's also the 2014 winner of the Tripadvisor Honour Award. With an extensive whiskey collection, this top-notch dining space regularly churns out juicy, delectable steaks that are imported from Australia and cooked to perfection.
  • With prices ranging from S$22 (300 grams of striploin) to S$34.50 (750 gram of T-Bone), the generous portions are all served with mashed or sauteed potatoes along with veggies like asparagus, spinach and sweet corn.
  • An award winner, Sao Nam offers a delectable menu of authentic Vietnamese dishes that come with a simple, cosy ambiance and impeccable service.
  • The house signatures include Fish in Dill - a turmeric-based grilled boneless salmon, Banh Xeo - Vietnamese pancakes stuffed with fried prawns or chicken breast, Coconut Beef - exactly what the name implies, and their Mix Starter Platter - its highlight being the Hue spring roll.
  • Get your Nyonya food fix at Precious tucked away in KL's Central Market Building. For those who don't know, Nyonya food is a unique method that stemmed centuries ago when Chinese cooking met Malaysian skills.
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Amid a unique dining environment, comes a vast menu of unique dishes, of which you simply must not miss out on the Asam Laksa soup, Otak Otak - fish cake and chili steamed in banana leaf, Udang Lemak - prawns tossed in rich coconut sauce, and Acar Awak - pickled veggies mixed with crushed peanuts. (Photo: Instagram user
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Kim Lian Kee

It's the store in Lot 10 at Bukit Bintang that usually has the longest queue. Their signature dish? Hokkien Mee dish made from bamboo cane.

Tossed in with generous portions of pork, prawns, squids and Chinese leaf, their smoky dark and spicy 'mee' or Chinese noodles come in three serving sizes, for S$2.25, S$4.80 and S$6.40.

Photo: The Business Times

This classic (street) food joint, dating back to almost 100 years, is your go-to place for some mind-blowing local dishes.

Address: Lot 10 Shopping Centre, Food Court, Lower Ground Floor, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Wilayah Persekutuan, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Telephone: +60 3-2782 3500

Opening hours (daily): 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM

Dining in the Dark

A unique and intriguing concept, the experience is exactly what the name implies. Their vision that lack of light only enhances all other senses, is slightly debatable but worth the experience.

Step into this experimental space for a well-crafted multi-course menu that includes over 100 tapas items for as cheap as S$3.20++ each.

Photo: Dining in the dark - KL

Some of the must-try items are banana, chocolate & honey pizza, linguine with smoked duck, chicken roulade with spinach, chicken cannelloni and lamb satay.

Useful tip: Check their dress code before venturing in

Address: 50A Changkat Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Telephone: +603 2110 0431 / +603 2110 3099

Opening hours (daily): 06:00 PM - 09:30 PM

Quirky restaurants around the world

  • Perched on a rock off Michanvi Ringwe Beach, diners can walk to this restaurant during low tide and take a boat out during high tide.
  • It has only 12 tables, so make your reservations early.
  • The world's first all-glass undersea restaurant, located at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort, sits 5m below the water surface and offers panoramic views of the surrounding marine life.
  • It serves contemporary European cuisine in a six-course set dinner menu, while the four-course lunch menu offers lighter fare. It's also open for mid-morning cocktails and can be booked privately for breakfast, weddings, or other special occasions.
  • High up in the tree tops, this restaurant serves a seasonal menu of local seafood and meat from farms within the county.
  • It's open for lunch, but you might want to go for dinner for that magical experience when the fairy lights on the tree branches in the room come on.
  • Be prepared for a full-on ninja experience when you manage to find the door to this stealthy restaurant, where waiters jump out from the shadows.
  • According to a CNN report, dishes are served along with knife-twirling and karate-chopping performances.
  • Dine in total darkness on a mystery menu at this restaurant, which believes that your sense of taste is intensified when you can't see what you're eating, hence heightening the flavours of the food.
  • You'll be guided and served by wait staff comprised mainly of the blind or visually impaired. 10 per cent of the restaurant's overall profit goes to research on visual disabilities.
  • This controversial hamburger restaurant is known for its high-calorie menu and is home to perhaps the most fattening burger in the world, the 19,900-calorie Octuple Bypass Burger.
  • In the restaurant, waitresses are dressed as nurses and diners will be required to don a hospital gown before making their orders or "prescriptions". Those who don't finish their meal will be spanked by a "nurse".
  • Foreign and independent films are screened on the wall of this restaurant's covered outdoor courtyard. Diners can also choose to sit indoors by the fire or in a semi-private mezzanine upstairs that overlooks the dining room.
  • Couple Gayle Pirie and John Clark, the restaurant's chefs and owners, change their California/Mediterranean-inspired menu daily.
  • This fondue restaurant gets around Paris' tax on wine served in wine glasses by serving it in baby bottles.
  • The restaurant is also known for its cosy and rowdy atmosphere. (Photo: Flickr user David McKelvey)
  • How would you like to dine in a cave with a view over the Adriatic Sea?
  • Built in the cliffs of an Italian medieval town, this enchanting restaurant is only open in the summer, from May to October.
  • Place your order using a touchscreen tablet on your table, and your food and drinks will arrive at high speed within minutes via metal tracks that spiral down from the kitchen. Welcome to the rollercoaster restaurant.
  • And no, your dishes won't show up in a jumbled mess - sauces and soups are served in separate jars, CNN reported.
  • Lovers of the London Underground transport system will enjoy this opportunity to dine inside one of the iconic tube carriages from the Victoria Line, now housed at Walthamstow Pump Museum.
  • Walk all day through Zambian wilderness and then camp out in the middle of a riverbed with your own private chef cooking dinner over a campfire. Afterwards, an armed escort stands watch for wild animals while you sleep under mosquito netting.
  • This organic restaurant on Vuurtoreneiland (lighthouse island in Dutch) near Amsterdam offers a nose to tail experience, with produce sourced from its immediate surroundings.
  • Using traditional techniques and wood fire only, a weekly changing menu is a surprise even to regular diners. On the cards are mini festivals, such as a theatre, a classic open air concert and midsummer night camping for families as well as a small boutique hotel.
  • Guests order in a lit bar but are then led to a blacked-out dining room
  • where during the two-hour dinner visually-impaired servers explain what food is being placed on the table in front of you.
  • Seemingly floating above Santorini's caldera on a jutting out piece of cliff, this Greek restaurant marks out its best table with two huge pink thrones.
  • Enjoy vertiginous sea views, seagulls and great Greek wine.
  • This private dining pod sits 10m above the ground in a redwood tree. It is accessed by an elevated treetop walkway built with redwood milled on site. The open-air treehouse can seat up to 30 diners.
  • Combine fine dining and culture at this opera-themed restaurant near Hyde Park, where the three-course gourmet French menu is served by classical opera-singing waiters. The interiors are also theatrical and audience participation, while not mandatory, is highly encouraged.

Wong ah Wah

Located in the heart of the Golden Triangle, this no-frills Cantonese establishment is known to belt out some mouth-watering local dishes, but make sure you order their all-time favourite BBQ Chicken Wings (S$1.10/piece) and Salted Egg Squids (S$5.10) - loved by locals and tourists alike.

Photo: The Business Times

Some other dishes worth ordering would be: stir fried bamboo clams, roast pork dark noodle, and stir-fried brinjals with prawns.

Useful tip: Best time to get a seat - around 6.30 PM

Address: 9, Jalan Alor, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Telephone: +60 3-2144 2463

Opening hours (daily): 5.00 PM - 4:00 AM

Nasi Kandar Pelita

A Malaysian success story, this family-run business lays out "nasi campur" - a Malaysian buffet spread at its best. Start with their veggies mixed in sambal sauce and then work your way towards classic dishes like beef rendang, grilled and fried fish, and cuttlefish curry, among others.

Photo: TripAdvisor

And while you're there, you also get to taste their authentic Indian Muslim cooking.

With each dish priced at around S$2.90, you'll definitely be tucking into a delicious, high-value meal.

Address: No. 149, Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Telephone: +603-2162 5532

Opening hours (daily): 24 hours

Restoran Han Kee

Photo: TripAdvisor

Located bang in the middle of the food paradise - Jalan Sultan - this seafood and Chinese restaurant has a huge menu but people mostly line up for their famous 'bak kut teh'.

This amazingly delicious herbal broth comes with small servings of pork ribs, crispy tofu and a hot pot of tea - all for SGD3.5! Other house specialties like the fish head and Kung Pao chicken are also definitely worth ordering.

Address: Jalan Sultan (Jalan Petaling), 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Opening hours (daily): 5:30 PM - 12:30 AM

The Steakhouse

Feel like digging into a hearty steak meal while roaming the streets of the Golden Triangle? Walk right into The Steakhouse, Malaysia's finest 40-seater steak joint that's also the 2014 winner of the Tripadvisor Honour Award. With an extensive whiskey collection, this top-notch dining space regularly churns out juicy, delectable steaks that are imported from Australia and cooked to perfection.

Photo: The Steakhouse KL

With prices ranging from S$22 (300 grams of striploin) to S$34.50 (750 gram of T-Bone), the generous portions are all served with mashed or sauteed potatoes along with veggies like asparagus, spinach and sweet corn.

Address: 48, Changkat Bukit Bintang, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Telephone: +60 3-2143 2268

Opening hours (daily): 6:00 PM - 12:00 AM

Sao Nam Fine Vietnamese Cuisine

An award winner, Sao Nam offers a delectable menu of authentic Vietnamese dishes that come with a simple, cosy ambiance and impeccable service.

The house signatures include Fish in Dill - a turmeric-based grilled boneless salmon, Banh Xeo - Vietnamese pancakes stuffed with fried prawns or chicken breast, Coconut Beef - exactly what the name implies, and their Mix Starter Platter - its highlight being the Hue spring roll.

Photo: Sao Nam Fine Vietnamese Cuisine

An average meal for 2 costs around S$38, complete with top-notch dishes and drinks.

Address: 25, Tengkat Tong Shin, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Telephone: +60 3-2144 1225

Opening hours (daily): 12:30 - 2:30 PM, 7:00 PM - 12:30 AM

Precious Old China

Get your Nyonya food fix at Precious tucked away in KL's Central Market Building. For those who don't know, Nyonya food is a unique method that stemmed centuries ago when Chinese cooking met Malaysian skills.

Amid a unique dining environment, comes a vast menu of unique dishes, of which you simply must not miss out on the Asam Laksa soup, Otak Otak - fish cake and chili steamed in banana leaf, Udang Lemak - prawns tossed in rich coconut sauce, and Acar Awak - pickled veggies mixed with crushed peanuts.

With a wholesome meal for 2 for as much as S$20, this place is evidently not as expensive as it looks.

Address: Lot 2, Mezzanine Floor, Central Market, Jalan Hang Kasturi, 50050 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Telephone: +60 3-2273 7372

Opening hours (daily): 11:00 AM - 11:00 PM

Make the most of your time in and around the Golden Triangle the best way possible - by gorging on all that delicious food! And we hope this guide helps you quickly zero in on your favourite food without too much of effort!


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Malaysia's iconic foods, by state and territory

  • Pinasakan is a popular dish among the Kadazandusun, the collective name for more than 40 sub-ethnic groups that live in Sabah. Kadazandusun is made up of three main groups - the Kadazan/Dusun, Murut and Orang Sungai, and they make up about one million of Sabah's population.

    To make pinasakan, the fish is cleaned and cooked in a pot over very low heat, with just "takob-akob" (a sour, dried wild fruit that's indigenous to Borneo), turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, cili padi and salt. Thanks to the low heat and its naturally oily texture, the fish doesn't get burnt, and enough moisture is extracted to keep it cooking for about an hour. Pinasakan can be kept for up to two weeks. It is a home-cooked dish and is not readily available in restaurants in Sabah.

  • This dish originates from the Chinese villages of Tuaran, a town about 45 minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu. The secret to Mee Tuaran lies with the hand-made egg noodles, which are made using only egg yolks. The noodles are toasted after boiling to avoid them clumping, and then fried with vegetables and a beaten egg. The dish is often topped with "chun ken" or minced pork wrapped in egg, char siew slices and sliced or minced pork.
  • In Hakka, "ngiu" means "cow" and "chap" means "mixed", which should give an idea of what ngiu chap is all about. A favourite Sabahan breakfast dish, a bowl of ngiu chap holds noodles - usually beehoon - and almost every single part of a cow. Beef balls, tripe, tongue and tendons are must-haves in ngiu chap although some add liver and other innards. The broth is made of bones and marrow boiled for over 10 hours, and seasoned with herbs.
  • Another Kadazandusun dish, hinava is Sabah's answer to Sarawak's umai, a raw fish dish similar to the South American ceviche. Fish is thinly sliced and mixed with lime juice, sliced cili padi, ginger, onions and salt. It is left to marinate for about one hour at room temperature. The sour, spicy hinava is usually served as an appetiser, although it can also be eaten with rice.
  • Stalls and restaurants selling charcoal-grilled seafood dot Kuala Perlis, especially in the areas where the many fishing boats dock.

    While air asam is generally proffered with ikan bakar in many states, its special chilli sauce is a truly Perlis creation made up of red chillies, salt, pepper, light soy and oyster sauces, fish sauce and Thai chilli sauce - a melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Thai influences.

  • Made from small freshwater fish like sepat, puyu and lampam which are found in paddy fields, pekasam is slightly sour because it is fermented - hence its name, a play on "masam". The fish is coated in sea salt and left to ferment for two weeks. After rinsing, it is crusted with ground, dry-fried rice and left in a chiller for one to eight months. To serve, the fish is fried until the crust is crisp, then topped with fried onions and cili padi.
  • This sour, hot fresh rice noodle dish is redolent of fish (selayang, kembung or sometimes, belut or eel) and a paste of dried chillies, belacan, shallots, asam gelugor, torch ginger bud and daun kesum. In Kuala Perlis, they like to eat laksa with pulut panggang (grilled glutinous rice stuffed with a crumbly floss of dried shrimp, coconut, turmeric and chilli), which is dunked into the gravy. In the port town, try this dish at Laksa Beras Kak Su.
  • Pulut mempelam is pretty much the same as Thai mango sticky rice but made with the local mempelam (mango) that Perlis is famous for. Harum manis mangoes grown only in certain parts of Perlis bear fruit between April and June. With a skin that is dark green even when ripe, the mango has deep yellow flesh which is luscious, rich, sweet and highly perfumed.
  • Ikan patin masak tempoyak is a dish you can smell from a distance. Like the famous smelly tofu, this too is an acquired taste. If you can get past the pungent smell, then what awaits you is Pahang's most favourite way to cook ikan patin (freshwater silver catfish). The gravy is yellow, slightly watery and very delicious. Ikan patin is soft and gelatinous, and the dish is usually enjoyed with white rice, with sambal belacan and ulam on the side.
  • Aso known as laksa lemak in Pahang, this is similar to laksam, another popular East Coast dish. The thick sauce gets its creaminess and colour from santan. About 2kg of santan is used for every 1kg of blended fish - preferrably mackerel or sardines. It takes only about seven ingredients to make this - noodles, fish, black pepper, asam keping, onions, salt and sugar. Sambal is served on the side for those looking to add more heat to the dish.
  • Any type of fish can be used for this dish, although Pahangites prefer to use ikan patin or mackerel. The fish is marinated for about two hours in a paste made from chilli, ginger and galangal. Petai is scattered onto the fish before it is wrapped with a banana leaf. The fish is then grilled over a charcoal fire for about 15 minutes. Ikan bakar petai is served with air asam made from tamarind juice, cili padi, onions and tomatoes, and is best eaten with white rice.
  • The story is that one of the royal cooks made this sweet treat for the Sultan. This dessert has layers of textures and taste, with caramelised bananas at the base - pisang lemak manis or pisang emas. The jala mas (golden net) is made from beaten egg yolks sieved into boiling sugared water to form a "net". It is topped with glaced cherries, prunes, and roasted cashewnuts before vanilla custard sauce is poured over.
  • Though flat rice noodles are available everywhere in Malaysia, those made in Ipoh are distinctively fine and velvety, gliding smoothly down the throat and always a treat for the palate.

    Ipoh hawkers have concocted their own special stock to complement the smoothness of their hor fun.

  • Perak's rendang tok is distinguished by its liberal use of spices, as well as aromatic plants such as lemongrass and cekur root. It is believed to be created by palace cooks and used to be served only to the royal family. This rendang is distinguished by its drier texture and darker colour. It is slowly cooked till the liquids are reduced, and the beef is fried in the rendered fat. This results in meat which is more flavoursome than other types of rendang.
  • This signature Ipoh meal can be paired with rice cooked in chicken stock or flat rice noodles. The chicken is poached in stock and the bean sprouts are quickly blanched and doused in soy sauce and sesame oil. It's a deceptively simple meal but there's nothing like biting into the luscious chicken with a silky-smooth, just-cooked texture.
  • Unlike regular black kopi-o which is produced by dark-roasting coffee beans with sugar, margarine and wheat, white coffee is lightly roasted with only margarine to produce a purer coffee taste. White coffee originates in the Ipoh Old Town area, where coffee pride runs high and rivalry among kopitiams is rife. Stalwart Sin Yoon Loong had to battle Nam Heong for pole position when the latter start to rise.
  • In Kedah, they love laksa so much they have it at all times of the day. They even serve laksa for wedding banquets and during festivals like Hari Raya.

    Laksa Kedah or laksa Utara (northern laksa) is a dish of rice noodles in a fish-based asam-flavoured gravy, garnished with julienned cucumber and onions, and fragranced with herbs like daun kesum. Its dominant notes are the sourness of the asam and the sweetness of the fish, but there is also a hint of spiciness. Those who like their laksa spicy can simply add on more cut bird's eye chillies. Otak udang, or prawn paste, is a must-have seasoning to add more flavour and depth.

    Laksa Kedah is distinguished by its thin, sourish gravy, and by the use of freshly-made rice noodles, which are softer than the pre-packaged kind. Malay laksa sellers serve the dish with a spoonful of sambal nyiur (coconut sambal).

  • You will find gulai nangka at any nasi berlauk stall in Kedah, an important producer of jackfruit (nangka). The aromatic, creamy yellow gravy is made with young, unripe jackfruit. The skin is removed and the fruit cut into wedges, seeds and all. Nangka has a substantial, meaty taste and can be a meat substitute.
  • Made of coconut milk, palm sugar and rice flour, this is a thick, sweet and sticky cake made in various flavours including durian and pandan. During festivals such as Hari Raya, the making of dodol is a communal effort in the kampungs, as folk take turns to stir the great vats of sticky paste over a low fire, for hours on end.
  • Kedahans love this festive baked sponge cake made with eggs and wheat flour. They bake it all year round and enjoy it dunked in kopi o. Called bahulu, kuih baulu or kuih bolu - from the Portuguese "bolo" meaning "cake" - they come in various shapes but bahulu cermai, which resembles the star-shaped cermai fruit, is most popular.
  • Want something cheap? Just a little nibble? No time to sit down for a meal? Grab a packet of nasi lemak wrapped in banana leaf and old newspaper on the fly for less than RM2.

    This could be your basic nasi lemak, no more than a fistful of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk, with a dollop of sambal, cucumber slices, ikan bilis, peanuts and egg.

    Need a big breakfast or have time and money to indulge? Sit down for a full-blown nasi lemak meal: a mountain of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and piled with your choice of toppings that may include fried chicken, beef rendang, sambal sotong, sambal udang, fried fish, fish roe, egg, vegetable acar, fried kangkung, etc.

  • There's nothing shy about true blue KL Hokkien mee - it's robust, thick and dark. The story has it that Fujian migrant Ong Kim Lian opened the first Hokkien mee stall in Petaling Street in 1927. The family-run Kim Lian Kee is still going strong. The noodles are fried over high heat in rendered pork fat with prawns, slivers of pork, liver and cabbage. Crispy lard fritters crown this greasy noodle dish, made complete with a spoonful of sambal.
  • This Hakka-style dish literally means "board noodles" - a nod to the way it is handmade by rolling the dough out on a board before cutting or tearing it up. It comes in two variants - soup or dry - with a topping of minced pork, mushrooms, fried ikan bilis and sayur manis. In recent times, chilli pan mee, which comes with a poached egg and dried chilli paste, has become extremely popular.
  • The South Indian tradition of serving meals on banana leaf "plates" is a very popular meal option in Malaysia. A typical banana leaf rice meal consists of white rice, four to five types of vegetables, pickles, crisp papadam and a variety of curries. Rasam, a spiced sour soup, and thick natural yoghurt are usually served on the side. It's a meal best eaten with the hands, and traditionally, the leaf is folded over towards the diner once the food is finished.
  • In Negri Sembilan, there are two popular versions of rendang - the Kuala Pilah rendang and the Rembau rendang.

    Kuala Pilah rendang is typified by its summery yellow hue. This rendang has fresh turmeric, lemongrass and coconut milk but no onion at all, which yields a minimally less sweet result. Some versions also use daun puding, a local herb which enhances the aroma of the dish. In this adaptation, the meat is braised for a shorter period, resulting in the lighter colour and a more gravy-like consistency.

    Rembau rendang, which is more popular, was originally made using buffalo meat, as buffaloes were abundant way back when. These days, beef (or chicken) is often used instead. Rembau rendang is a dark, woody colour and quite spicy, as it is made using cili padi and dried chillies.

  • For some, no visit to Seremban is complete without a sampling of this pastry stuffed with a rich, savoury filling of salty-sweet, minced barbecue meat. Baked until browned, the layered pastry is flaky and crisp. One can hardly miss the biggest and most famous of the lot: Empayar Seremban Siew Pow occupies a huge, imposing complex just off the North-South highway. The family-run business started selling the baked pau in 1973.
  • Negri is famous for smoked meat in all its permutations - chicken, duck or beef. In fact, meat in Negri Sembilan is rarely grilled because smoking is so popular. The practice started as a way to preserve and extend the shelf life of meat. Smoking removes moisture and dries out the meat. It also adds a delectable smoky flavour and toothsome chew. Thus preserved, smoked meats can be used to cook a plethora of local dishes.
  • Masak lemak is a turmeric-infused, creamy cooking style ubiquitous all over the country… but nowhere is it as famous as in Negri Sembilan, as the method is usually attributed to the Minangs residing in the state. The heat-loving Minangs dial up their masak lemaks with great fistfuls of cili api . The style makes copious use of thick coconut milk and is used as a base gravy for meat, seafood and vegetables.
  • The reach of nasi dagang covers the entire east coast region and extends further north into southern Thailand - Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.

    It is one of the most popular breakfast meals in the east coast - like nasi lemak is to the west coast. In fact, nasi dagang has been called the "nasi lemak of the East Coast" since both are coconut milk-rich rice dishes, but the label is spurious, many would say.

  • This traditional Malay snack is made of fish and sago flour seasoned with salt and sugar. It is enjoyed for its fishy, umami-rich flavour and chewy or crispy texture. There are two main types of lekor: thinly sliced and deep fried until dry and crispy, or sausage-shaped and deep fried or steamed. The thicker, sausage-shaped lekor is chewy and the thin lekor is crispy. Keropok lekor is usually served with a fresh chilli-spiked dipping sauce.
  • This simple side dish made usually of green chillies stuffed with a filling of pounded fish paste and grated coconut is popular in the areas where fish and coconut are plentiful. The stuffed chilli is simmered in coconut milk until cooked. It is usually served as a condiment with rice.
  • Aromatic and tasty in a fishy way, sata is a traditional Terengganu snack made of fish paste flavoured with onion, ginger and red chillies, and seasoned with salt and sugar. It is wrapped into little conical or triangular parcels and threaded through a stick of bamboo before being grilled over a charcoal fire until the wrapping is charred, giving it a nice, smoky flavour.
  • With its vivid colours and medley of aromatic herbs, nasi kerabu is Kelantan's most visually captivating and exciting dish. In recent decades, it has gone from simple kampung fare for folk along the east coast and northern states to a resplendent dish enjoyed by urbanites around the country.

    A complete nasi kerabu is a complex dish involving various components: the rice, herb salad, a coconut and fish relish, a spicy sambal sauce or two and various condiments, each an elaborate recipe on their own if you were to make them from scratch: salted duck egg, keropok ikan (fish cracker), solok lada (stuffed green chilli) and fried fish or chicken.

    All the elements are made separately and assembled on a plate for serving. The finely shredded ingredients and dressings are tossed together with the rice and enjoyed with the various accompaniments.

  • Laksam is a kind of rice noodle - a thick, steamed rice sheet rolled up like carpet and cut into nuggets. The term has also come to mean a laksa dish typically found in the East Coast and Kedah, but especially Kelantan. It is a dish of laksam noodles served with kuah putih - a rich and creamy, fishy coconut gravy - topped with a chiffonade of local herbs and shredded vegetables, and a dollop of sambal for a spicy kick.
  • Chicken is quartered, seasoned, and clapped on a large stick of split bamboo before being flame grilled. As it grills, the meat is slathered with more of the rich coconut cream marinade flavoured with ginger, turmeric, tamarind, lemon-grass, dried chilli, shallot, garlic, palm sugar, and salt. The result is an oozy, sticky, rich and creamy, slightly sweet, charcoal-roasted meat with a smoky taste.
  • This dish of whole squid stuffed with sticky rice drenched in coconut milk is popular throughout the East Coast. The Kelantan version is peculiar as it is sweet and makes you wonder whether it is a strange squid dessert. The sweetness comes from nisan or palm sugar which gives it a brown colour and smoky taste. The Terengganu version is cooked in kuah putih so it is snowy white in colour.
  • The starting point to making a good Sarawak laksa is making a good laksa paste.

    A home­made laksa paste can be concocted by blending ingredients like shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal and dried chillies, and ground spices like coriander seeds, cumin, star anise, cardamom, clove and nutmeg.

    The result is a laksa that is complex and hearty, spicy and very, very addictive, serving up a unique balance of flavours that lends itself to a versatile dish that can be consumed for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a midnight snack, although Anthony Bourdain popularised it as a breakfast option when he referred to it as the "breakfast of gods".

  • A specialty of the coastal Melanau community, umai is a raw fish dish similar to ceviche. Raw fish like empirang is filleted and sliced thinly then marinated in a mixture of local gingers, onions, chillies and lime juice. The Melanaus would use asam kelubi, or its variant, asam paya, as an acidulating agent and eat it with roasted sago pearls.
  • Manuk pansuh, or chicken cooked in bamboo is an Iban delicacy that is now a mainstream favourite. The dish is assembled with ginger, lemongrass, cassava leaves (daun ubi), pepper and a local ginger called tepus which is used to marinate the chicken for about 20 minutes. This is then stuffed into bamboo and sealed with cassava leaves, and cooked over hot coals -which steams the meat.
  • This dry Chinese noodle dish has become incredibly popular over the years. Springy noodles are topped with minced pork and char siew. Fried shallots, spring onions, mushrooms and lard are also some of the usual suspects you can expect to find in it. Some incarnations use minced beef. Seasonings can also vary - sometimes vinegar is used, while other versions are tossed with light soy or fish sauce.
  • It's a fiery-looking dish, although the spiciness level varies from family recipe to family recipe. The common culinary thread that binds, and which gives is that distinct character, is the pronounced tang of vinegar and the bite of mustard seeds.

    Its origin can be traced to another former Portuguese conquest, Goa in India. You'll find similarities between Goan vindaloo and Malacca's debal curry - in the use of white vinegar, turmeric and dried chillies, reflecting the Portuguese voyage. But this particular curry creation is also thickened with waxy candlenuts and fragranced with lemongrass and galangal, for a distinctive local flavour. Drawing on both its parent cultures for these influences, debal curry is a unique culinary mirror of Malacca's Kristang (Portuguese Eurasians) community itself.

  • To enjoy the skewered morsels that collectively make up satay celup, everyone gathers around a boiling pot of thick, spice-rich peanut gravy. The items on sticks are either raw or semi-cooked, with a good dunking into the gravy finishing the job; these can range from sliced pork liver to prawns to quail's eggs.
  • A Nonya dish of stewed chicken and potato, ayam pongteh gets its distinctive, sweet-salty flavour from a combination of fermented bean paste and palm sugar. The palm sugar adds a smoky-sweet note, and lots of depth. Some cooks add cabbage to their stews, or fragrance the thick, rich gravy with cinnamon and star anise - although the latter remains quite unusual.
  • Served with either poached or roasted chicken and a tangy, garlicky chilli sauce, these chicken rice balls are moist - being shaped into balls somehow changes the texture of the rice - and full of flavour. This dish can be traced back to the Hainanese, who shaped chicken rice into balls to take with them when they travelled for the Ching Ming festival.
  • Nasi kandar started out as food for the coolies, but today is a sublime treat for fans who can't get enough of its addictive tastiness.

    The real lure of nasi kandar lies in the curry gravy, or rather, the mix of curry gravies, some say. You choose your main protein and the server would do a dance of dousing the rice with a scoop of this curry, and a slick or quick dashes of various other gravies, tasty juices and bits and bobs. You only need to specify if you want to "banjir", literally to flood, your rice.

  • Char Kway Teow is essentially stir-fried flat rice noodles. A good plate would have the aroma of the wok hei, and its flavourings of lard oil, garlic, soy sauce and chilli paste would be perfectly balanced. Shrimps (and sometimes mantis prawns or crab meat), and slivers of Chinese sausage enrich it. Bean sprouts and chives are added later in the frying to retain their crunch and freshness, and blood cockles go in last as you don't really want to overcook them. In the hands of an accomplished cook, the combination of these ingredients and stir-frying them over a charcoal fire make for a most scrumptious meal.
  • Assam Laksa is a fish-based noodle dish that is sour, sweet and spicy. Its gravy is made with tamarind, flavoured with shallots, turmeric, lemongrass and chillies. To counter its strong full-on gravy, the rice noodles are garnished with a salad of julienned crunchy, fresh vegetables such as cucumber, lettuce, onion, mint, torch ginger and chillies. It is accompanied with prawn paste, otak udang. The popular assam laksa stalls are at Joo Hooi coffee shop on Penang Road and the Air Itam laksa near the market.
  • Mee Goreng is a dish that reflects Penang's multiculturalism. Stir-frying and its main ingredient, noodle, are Chinese but the flavourings are Indian. It's unlike the Mamak mee goreng we get elesewhere because Penang hawkers make their own chilli paste with ingredients such as dates and sweet potatoes. The noodles are garnished with bean sprouts, tofu, boiled potato, egg, cuttlefish sambal and two different types of prawn fritters. Some hawkers also add beef. Popular mee goreng stalls are at Seng Lee Coffee Shop on Bangkok Lane and CRC Mee Goreng at Seong Huat Coffee Shop on Larut Road.
  • Those out of the state would recognise it most as the laksa made with spaghetti noodles - even though most Malaysians only became familiar with dried pasta when spaghetti Bolognese became popular here in the 1980s.

    It is believed that Sultan Abu Bakar - known as the "Founder of Modern Johor" and said to be the first Malay ruler to visit Europe in 1866 - instructed his royal chefs to use spaghetti instead of the traditional rice noodles in his laksa Johor. According to the book Johor Palate: Tanjung Puteri Recipes written by Kalsom Taib and Hamidah Abdul Hamid, the Sultan had acquired a love for the pasta during his travels to Italy.

  • Otak-otak is fish custard flavoured with herbs such as turmeric and lemongrass, wrapped in palm leaves and grilled. Muar is most famous for its grilled otak-otak and visitors cart these away by the box. They are most adventurous with their otak-otak recipes, and you will find otak-otak made from other seafood such as prawns, crab, shellfish and even fish head.
  • Pineapple pajeri is usually served as an accompaniment to rich rice dishes. Thick rings or chunks of pineapple are braised in a concoction of spices, coconut milk or kerisik and palm sugar. It is stewed slowly till the liquid has reduced, making for a sweet-savoury dish. It is almost always served at weddings in Johor to accompany nasi briyani or nasi minyak.
  • Asam pedas is a tamarind-based red fish curry that will set your senses on fire. It is hot, sour and just a tad sweet, and its deliciousness hinges on balancing these flavours perfectly. Cooks use all kinds of fish to cook asam pedas with garnishings such as ladies' fingers, tomatoes and brinjal. Daun kesum and torch ginger flower give asam pedas its distinctive aroma and taste.
  • It doesn't take rocket science to make satay - thread little pieces of marinated meat onto bamboo skewers and grill them over a fire. Yet not everyone gets satay right. Not everyone can make satay as good as they do it in Selangor's satay town of Kajang.

    So what makes Selangor's satay so amazing? Is it the tender and flavourful pieces of perfectly grilled meat or their loyal companion, the peanut sauce?

    While the West Javanese prefer lean meat on the skewers, Selangorians love good ol' chunks of fat when it comes to satay. To them, the fat adds flavour and moistness, so their satay sticks usually have skin and fat wedged in the middle of the meat pieces. They are right, of course - that little piece of fat chars and crisps up, oozing juicy fat that coats the satay with a mist of deliciousness after grilling.

  • An Indian Muslim creation, rojak or pasembur is a fritter salad with characteristics of rojak buah and gado-gado. Shredded cucumber and sengkuang (yam bean) are mixed with chunks of boiled potatoes, fried beancurd, prawn and coconut fritters, boiled egg and cuttlefish sambal. The kicker is the sweet and spicy peanut sauce - like a watered-down, starchy satay sauce. Add noodles and it becomes mee rojak; add fried chicken and it's mee rojak ayam.
  • The literal translation of this dish is "pork bone tea". The complex part is the broth, made fragrant and flavourful by herbs and spices like star anise, clove, angelica root and Chinese wolfberries - but every chef has his own secret recipe. Meaty pork ribs and other cuts are slow-cooked in the broth and additional ingredients may include offal, mushrooms, dried bean curd skin and tofu puffs. Best enjoyed with rice, garlic and chilli in soy sauce, and a helping of fried char kway.
  • This Hakka dish gives the best mix of fish, meat, vegetables and tofu. Traditionally, only tofu cubes were stuffed with a paste of fish and pork, and then deep fried or braised. These days, everything can be stuffed - bittergourd, ladies' fingers, chillies, and brinjals. A variety of fish and meat balls also go into the mix. The dish can be enjoyed on its own or in a clear soup, with chilli sauce and sweet sauce as dips. Flat rice noodles (chee cheong fun) and rice are optional.