When we started planning this trip last summer, we had two major regions of the world that we really wanted to reach: Southeast Asia and India. Not requiring any pre-arrival visas or pre-departure planning (..things we’re not very good at), the countries of Southeast Asia would be an easier first stop. Getting into India, however, would be more difficult… We couldn’t apply for the Indian visa while in the U.S. because we didn’t have a verifiable permanent address (with utility bills) after selling our Boston apartment; we knew we’d have to get the visa in person through another country’s embassy along our way. So moving on from Cambodia, we decided to head to Sri Lanka, as it is known to be a reliable place to apply for an Indian visa – not to mention an interesting place to visit in its own right!
In order to get to Sri Lanka, we had to change planes in Malaysia. So we tacked on a few extra days of sight-seeing and eating in the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Kuala Lumpur is said to be somewhat of a “foodie” paradise, so before leaving Cambodia, we compiled an eating itinerary of various Malaysian goodies we should try while we were there. To fill out our itinerary, I solicited feedback on Twitter and received quite a few responses for food and locations we’d never have known to try on our own.
- Shin Kee beef noodles in the city! — lainie (@lainie) February 27, 2012
- you have to try the Chilli Pan Mee at least bit.ly/xPD6ZJ — Tune Hotels (@tunehotels) February 27, 2012
- foods to try according to the wife: Nasi lemak, chili crab, bak jut teh, char kway teow, hainanese chicken rice, hokkien mee — Will Browar (@wbrowar) February 27, 2012
- Be sure to have dinner in Chinatown while in KL. And stop in Penang along the way if you have a chance. — Stephanie Rieger (@stephanierieger) February 27, 2012
- awesome! If you’re the adventurous type, my favorite meal in Malaysia was stingray. That was in Kulai but you might find it in KL — Will Browar (@wbrowar) February 28, 2012
With that, we assembled a checklist:
Upon arrival in Kuala Lumpur, we got straight to work. We’d read that 10 or so of the best street food vendors in K.L. were invited to set up shop in an upscale food court inside one of the malls. (In Asia, mall food courts are very different than the U.S. – often some of the best, authentic food in the city can be found in them). We set out for that particular food court and began checking off our list.
At the very first counter we approached, we found “beef noodles”, which were high on our to-do list – it wasn’t the “Shin Kee Restaurant” recommended on Twitter, but we figured we should try them in case we didn’t make it over that way. It was a great dish – sort of a caramelized soy sauce taste over thick noodles and very finely ground beef.
The very next counter had yet another item on our list: Char Kway Teow. This Penang specialty is made up of very soft rice-cake noodles, smothered in bacon, cockles, chives, sprouts, hot chili, shrimp, and soy sauce – all stir fried over high heat in bacon fat! Delicious and filling. But not light on calories.
At that point, we needed to locate a cafe so Steph could read up on the next leg of our trip while I got some work done with the folks back in Boston. Walking around looking for a cafe, we couldn’t help but notice that the diversity in K.L. was far beyond any place we’d ever been. Just walking down a random street, we’d see people representing just about any race and cultural group we’d ever known existed (and even some we didn’t), intermingling and outwardly friendly towards one another – perhaps K.L. has an edge on other parts of the world in that regard– who knows.
Late that night after the food and work had settled, we were back on the prowl. We headed over to a busy downtown district known for its street vendors and restaurants.
For all the variety on display, it was impossible to choose where to go, so we ended up parking at a restaurant that had a couple of items from our list: namely, chili crab and stingray! Of the two, the crab was okay, but kind of bland– but we chalk that up to the restaurant itself, not the dish. The stingray was very tasty – a nice tender cut of white fish with sweet chili sauce.
Steph finding a comfortable spot to wind down after the long day:
On Petaling Street, the main artery through Chinatown, we stopped in to have dim sum for breakfast. Below is Steph picking from the Dim Sum tray… we ended up with BBQ pork buns, some shrimp shumai, and some coffee and tea: all delicious.
Wandering further down Petaling, we found all sorts of unusual dried foods for sale.
We’d intended to make our way to “Shin Kee” for lunch, as it was a restaurant that was recommend to us to check out. Unfortunately, it was closed (pictured), and we weren’t sure if it would open that day or not. That item would remain unchecked….
Further wandering the city, we attempted to finish off our checklist, sampling the random odd thing along the way.
Steph with some bubble tea (milk tea with gummy-bear like tapioca balls inside).
Nasi Lemak to go: rice soaked and steamed in coconut cream, a fried egg, chillies, and peanuts wrapped in a banana leaf.
Chilli Pan Mee: noodles with minced pork, anchovies, and chilli sauce– possibly the best thing we had in K.L.
After all that, it was once again time to head back to the room and ready ourselves for a 4am taxi to the airport. In the end, we crossed-out all but one or two items on our list – not too bad!
More importantly, we definitely felt we could have spent a long time in K.L. – in just two days, it left a lasting, tasty impression.
Next stop: Sri Lanka!