What to eat and do in Malaysia?
October 22, 2011 11:27 AM   Subscribe

What to eat and do in Malaysia?

I have the good fortune of being in Malaysia for about 8 days next month, both in KL and Penang.

Does anyone have any suggestions / activities / day trips worth taking?

Also, I'm a foodie:

What should I eat while I'm there?

Both meals and restaurant suggestions are most welcome.

Many thanks in advance.
posted by FunGus to Travel & Transportation around Malaysia (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Nasi ayam (chicken rice). Roti canai (roti with curry sauce) for breakfast. Those are the basics.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:46 AM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: For food in Malaysia, here's an FPP to browse through and explore the different cuisines. Hawker food is the best there is and Malaysia/Singapore has a strong 'foodie' culture centered around the local foods.

Top things to try - ask your local contacts (it doesn't sound like you're on holiday per se) for the best satay stand (Kajang satay is worth the trip to Kajang) recommendation. The peanut sauce in M'sia is not the creamy peanut buttery stuff that tends to be popular in Thai restaurants around the world and worth it in its own right.

Roti canai - see if you can find a stall where you can watch it being made as well.

Laksa and Yong Tau Foo

Cendol or Ice Kacang for dessert

Hokkien mee and basic chicken rice

Chee cheong fun with tiny shrimp

Nasi Lemak

Beef Rendang

For day trips from KL - Batu Caves and Genting Highlands [the cable car ride over rainforest alone is worth the obvious touristy things] are usually the top choices

Penang I'll finally get to experience again after some 30 odd years later next month so looking forward to the rest of this thread myself.
posted by infini at 11:50 AM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: I've never been to Malaysia so maybe shouldn't be posting, but there are two Malaysian restaurants that I habitually go to in DC and I am absolutely addicted to Green Tea Salad. It's my understanding that it's a classic Malaysian dish. Definitely the first thing that I would try if I were going.
posted by kaybdc at 12:15 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: Oh god, how embarassing; just remembered that they are Burmese not Malaysian restaurants. Please disregard.
posted by kaybdc at 12:16 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: I have dreams about the Assam Laksa in Penang. One of the most complex dishes (flavor-wise) I've ever had.

If you are still looking for accommodations in Penang, I recommend the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Even if you don't stay there, go on the tour. Close to a good hawker stall too.

Seconding Batu Caves as a day trip from KL. They had some really great young coconut there after your trip up and down the stairs.
posted by 2ghouls at 12:26 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: not a specific restaurant suggestion, more of a strategy:

walk around to a non-tourism focused neighborhood and look for busy hole-in-the-wall places. i'm thinking about the area a little north from the china town area.

i don't know if you've been to asia or malaysia before. there are many small restaurants that are right off the street. go to one with many locals. point to what someone else is having to ask for that. it will probably be good.
posted by cupcake1337 at 12:44 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: Anything. OMG, it's the best food in the world.

Try fresh durians. Seriously, I love the flavour, but it's definitely an acquired taste, and most Westerners can't get past the smell.
posted by wenat at 12:55 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: Re Penang, Id second the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion! We had good luck finding a cab driver who we hired for a day for a 'temple tour' of the city (very cool) as well as the botanical and butterfly gardens. The gardens were not worth the drive out to see them, although there was a restaurant at the botanical herb garden that was pretty nice. If you are going to the beach anyway it's quite close. The temples were very interesting - we saw the snake temple, reclining buddha, Kek Lok Si and a bunch others I don't remember names of.

As far as the food we are vegetarian so specifically ate at a bunch of veggie cafeterias/eateries - but didn't have one bad meal (except the hotel free dinner - yuk. Don't bother eating at a western hotel, just go out and get something tasty.)

We skipped KL to spend some time in Langkawi instead at the recommendation of a local. It's a 2-3 hour boat ride from Penang and was amazing. Too far for a day trip but really great beaches.

Have a great trip!
posted by zleetle at 1:21 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: ROTI CANAI

If I had to rate the best things I've ever eaten, this would easily make the top 5. Don't use your left hand when you eat it (which is a lot more difficult than it sounds, but them's the rules).

Where to go / what to do?
George Town, Penang for tourist stuff.
The Perhentian Islands for some of the best SCUBA diving anywhere.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:28 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: I grew up eating Singaporean/Malaysian/Indonesian food and it is indeed amazing. Really, anything you have will be delicious (except maybe durian, but that's my own personal bias talking--lots of people do love it).

Like others above have mentioned, you should definitely try laksa, chicken rice, and roti canai.

Here are some lovely traditional Indonesian/Malaysian desserts you might like:

pisang goreng (banana fritters)
kueh lapis (thousand layer cake)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:36 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: It might sound stupidly banal, but the watermelon juices are largely out of this world. As are the coconut milk drinks you get from the side of the road in a plastic bag with ice. I couldn't get enough of them when I was there.

If you get a chance go to one of the local sea/river food places. You get this kind of thing. We ate like absolute pigs (8 of us) and it was some ridiculously low price I think about $100 at most and we ordered enough food for about 12 people. It was awesome.

This is the place here (with the white umbrellas and blue roofs). You can see right into the kitchen and the tanks of fish. Just amazing food. Totally worth the drive out there if you at all like fish.
posted by Brockles at 3:30 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: Oh, and we went to a few of those street corner divey places that look like they used to be a pharmacy before (all white tile and funny shaped interior) that open straight onto the street. Superb food. All noisy and lots of fun.

Oddly, the more formal the place looked the less enjoyable eating experience it was. It got very 'samey' and boring. The best food I had was in the dive places.
posted by Brockles at 3:32 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: In Penang be sure to drink air limau, which is lime juice (air [pronounced "ire"]= juice, limau = lime) sweetened with plain syrup and served over ice. The tiny limes that grow around Penang are the best in Malaysia and the drink isn't as good elsewhere, even in KL. It's the most fragrant, delicious limeade I've ever had. Every cafe and restaurant serves it made to order, with a couple of fresh limes crushed into each glass. Sheer bliss on a sweltering tropical afternoon on a rickety table under a lazy ceiling fan.

If you have a serious sweet tooth try kaya, coconut curd, which is rich and eggy and used as a filling in many sweets. It's also spread on regular ol' toast and served with coffee for breakfast or a snack called kaya toast. The best I've had was in Penang (probably because local friends steered me to the best bakeries) but it's good in KL too.
posted by Quietgal at 3:42 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: EAT EVERYTHING.
posted by divabat at 4:39 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: Check out the food from hawker stalls in KL - it's varied and fabulous.

You'll probably find places selling strips of this barbecued sweet pork stuff - try it but be warned that it is LIKE CRACK. Any time someone in my family visits Malaysia they get pestered to bring shedloads of the stuff back with them.

Oh, and the l
posted by doop at 4:50 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: ocal fresh fruit is great, too, & fabulous for breakfast.
posted by doop at 4:51 PM on October 22, 2011

Best answer: Mangosteen !!!

And other tropical fruits, especially jackfruit and durian but Mangosteen is THE BEST!
posted by Rash at 5:04 PM on October 22, 2011

Response by poster: Yay, lots of nice things to try. Thanks for the answers guys.
posted by FunGus at 7:48 PM on October 22, 2011

If you rent a scooter in Penang, all you have to do is head to some crowded night market in the Georgetown area and gorge yourself on different stall food. I live in taiwan, so i got a kick out of being able to speak Taiwanese/Hoikken with people and how some of the Chinese dishes were a bit different than the Taiwanese night market versions.

The beaches on the north coast were fairly mediocre, at least by SE Asian standards.

In KL, I remember the bird museum being a bit underwhelming and expensive to get to.
posted by alidarbac at 12:52 AM on October 23, 2011

In KL, there's a street called Jalan Alor. It's near the cbd. Go there. There's a heap of open air restaurants (I like the one on the corner next to the barbecued pork store). Sit in any one. And order EVERYTHING. Sit and eat for hours.

My faves -
Char Kway teow
Laksa (Assam or otherwise)
Mi rubus
Nasi goreng
Nasi lemak
Mi goreng

Then there's pork belly anything, sambal kangkong (vegetables in amazing chilli), stingray (to die for), oyster omelettes.

Also yes, frequent the roti canai restaurants that open out onto the streets, multiples times. There's plain (crispy and flaky) and egg (omg). Try them both. And order yourself a teh Tarik (hot or cold milky chai like tea). And a horlicks. And a Bandung. And syrup limau. And and and.... Also order a dosai. And all the other versions of roti (tissue, plaster, bomb, banana etc).

If you see any roadside stalls selling corn in a cup, try it. An awesome snack.

And curry puffs. Eat lots of them.

In Penang, you are in the Peranakan centre of the country. Try and find some Peranakan food - it is only available in Malaysia and Singapore, ask around. Dishes to try - kyam Chye soup, Babi kombak, anything with real sambal belacan (chilli paste). Very complex flabours and incredibly good door, plus interesting culture. See if you can visit a traditional Peranakan house too.

posted by shazzam! at 8:28 AM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

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