Makan paradise Peninsula Malaysia has spawned our plushest Gourmet Bulletin to date with 18 of the country's most treasured food joints sharing the roll of honour. Curated from capital Kuala Lumpur as well as heritage cities Malacca, Ipoh and Penang, we are proud to present our longest list ever featuring the most fabulous of Malaysia's Best Local Food Haunts
the gourmet bulletin
Ali Nasi Lemak Penang
Sri Weld Food Court, Beach St, 10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Nasi Lemak is a regional staple with such long culinary and cultural roots it will take some time to properly introduce it to the uninitiated. The components of this favourite breakfast dish are coconut rice, eggs, cucumber slices, ikan bilis and sambal chilli. There can be as many accompaniments as one wishes, with fried chicken, beef rendang, otak-otak being some of the most lavish accompaniments in a long long list of options. In Penang one of the most famous Nasi Lemak is the humble Ali Nasi Lemak that has been dishing out the banana wrapped staple for decades. The rice is fluffy and fragrant and the sambal chilli laden with fried ikan bilis is flavoursome with a fiery kick. This may be a most basic version of the versatile dish but it definitely is a golden version much loved by locals as well as gourmet hunters seeking it out from lands afar.
Siam Road Char Koay Teow Penang
82, Jalan Siam, 10400 George Town, Penang
Char Koay Teow is another regional favourite with a long history and quite a few interpretations. Penang and Singapore are both renowned for this noodle dish but there are some differences between the two versions. The Penang version is mostly devoid of yellow noodles and sweetness, of a lighter tone of brown and laden with chives, chinese sausage and cockles. Some stalls, like the famous Siam Road institution, still fry their noodles with charcoal flames which both heightens the 'wok-hei' aroma and significantly enhances the 'çhar' flavour. The result is an insightful initiation into the importance of traditional methods, and hours long daily queues that don't deter visitors from craving and tucking into a plate of sinful nostalgia here.
Duck Blood Curry Mee Penang
223B Jalan Burma, George Town 10050, Malaysia
Curry Mee is a distinctive dish that is largely unique unto Malaysia and most people will agree that the best renditions are from Penang. A not-quite-distant relative of Curry Laksa, Curry Mee has a unique spice profile that is piquant yet familiar, forbidding yet addictive. The version of the dish done at Duck Blood is quite the celebration of excess, with a tempting array of accompaniments that include its signature duck blood pudding, roast pork as well as various seafood and soybean delicacies. The malevolently dark sambal should come with its own warning label but once sampled one is likely to be instantly hooked. Curry Mee is definitely a Malaysian classic not to be missed, especially this delightful version at Duck Blood so laden with treasures.
Wantan Mee House Penang
Wantan Mee House started as a humble coffee shop stall in Pulau Tikus market over 40 years ago and is now a 2nd generation institution of the beloved classic imbued with new forms. Unlike the basic dark version Malaysia is well-known for, this rendition has added other accompaniments like shredded chicken, braised mushrooms and a thick egg sauce that takes the noodle dish to new heights. With wonderfully crisp noodles enveloped in well-balanced rich flavours, the wantons and char siew actually pale in comparison to the noodle, although they are already pretty solid on their own. For an indulgence that is similar yet vastly different, opt for the 'hor fun' version that is always tempting us to stray from the classic mee. Even the soup here that comes with the noodles are a few notches above the usual MSG-laden affairs, being made from chicken stock and other flavoursome ingredients.
Nasi Ganja Ipoh
2, Jalan Yang Kalsom, Ipoh Town, 30250 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Nasi Ganja is naturally just a sensational tease - there is no marijuana to be found at this joint, only 100% legit delicious Nasi Kandar that has folks arriving in droves at all hours throughout the stall's many years of operation. The basis of their fame is their famous Ayam Goreng Merah, which is a delicious spicy fried chicken that one simply cannot get enough of. The accompanying curries and local dishes are just as outstanding and even at breakfast one can spy diners tucking into a mountain of rice with fiery looking cuttlefish, vegetable and meat curries, salted eggs and of course their signature red-hot fried chicken.
Restaurant Ipoh Kong Heng
75, Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh, Perak
Ipoh is a stellar attraction on the heritage food map, and if there can be only one treat that is quintessentially Ipoh, all bets will be on the city's famous Hor Fun. There has been much speculation on what makes the texture of the rice noodle so tantalisingly smooth and chewy. Some have claimed it is the groundwater used to make the noodles while others believe it is the quality of the rice flour used. Regardless of the truth, Ipoh Hor Fun is simply irresistible and there are shops aplenty that proffer this dish excellently. Our choice rested with Kong Heng for a variety of reasons - the stock that was coaxed from prawns and chicken after hours of cooking is not only naturally sweet but wonderfully light and the succulent and flavoursome Poached Chicken with Beansprouts, another Ipoh great, is a gold standard bearer on how all poached chicken should taste.
Funny Mountain Soya Beancurd Ipoh
50, Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri, Taman Jubilee, 30300 Ipoh, Negeri Perak
Funny Mountain isn't quite as funny if you are at the back of an endlessly long queue that forms 30 mins before the joint is opened. But truth be told, however long one has to wait for the famous beancurd here, it is worth it. There is a primordial satisfaction just watching the pudding jiggle as the worker scoops up serving after serving of the heritage dessert. Texture is paramount to the success of tauhuay, as beancurd is known in Hokkien, with the taste and fragrance of soy beans being of equal importance. Funny Mountain tauhuay is smooth and firm and redolent of top grade soybeans. The sweetness of the syrup may be a tad overpowering but that can be avoided by opting for the less sweet version. With factory produced tauhuay flooding the market today, aficionados of tauhuay must not miss the queue here.
Putu Piring Malacca
252 Jalan Tengkera, Malacca City, Malaysia
One of Malacca's most surprising find is this very established, very popular Putu Piring shop that was started and still operated by the same Chinese family. Putu Piring is a traditional Malay dessert made from rice flour and palm sugar that is fading into oblivion in big cities like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur because it is quite a laborious operation to make good Putu Piring. Fortunately this joint is still churning one of the most memorable versions that we have tasted in quite a long while. The texture is soft and chewy and the generous blotches of palm sugar in each rice cake is just heavenly. It won't be an easy feat landing these delicious rice cakes brimming with desiccated coconut though - their operation hours are tricky (close when sell finish, the owner told us) and the queue is always long. Our advise is to head there early to avoid disappointment.
Pin Pin Hiong Malacca
786, Lorong Hang Jebat, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Breakfast culture in a touristy destination like Malacca is what makes a trip there still worthwhile. Mere minutes before hordes of tourists begin to flood onto the streets with their loudhailers and garish flags, one can head out earlier (say 7am-ish) strolling by the river before settling at a heritage breakfast joint like Pin Pin Hiong where the Mee Sua Soup brimming with pork, liver and vegetable is just the right ticket to start the day, especially in sometimes exhaustive Malacca. Locals here also have a penchant for heavier fares like Egg Kueh Teow and Chicken Chop, and the versions here are excellently rendered with a mighty burst of wok-hel and just the right omph of seasoning. Our favourite is still the deliciously light Mee Sua, which in nostalgia isn't that different from the ones I remember my mother used to make for a quick-fix meal. But do arrive early for locals also cherish their 'just like mum used to make' breakfast nosh and will stream in from 7-30ish.
Heng Hong Tin Kee Restaurant Malacca
62 Jln Tengkera Malacca, Malaysia
One of our observations made through the selection process is that Hailam (Hainan) cuisine is a lot more prevalent in Malaysia with many of the surviving institutions still dishing out the best Hailam fares found nowhere else in the region, not even on Hainan island, the ancestral land of all things Hainanese. Imagine our excitement when trying out Heng Hong Tin Kee in Malacca, an establishment that had evolved from being wedding caterers during the country's yesteryear chapters to a quaint joint proffering signature dishes like Hailam Pork Chop and Herbal Mutton Soup. The pork chop is one of the most delicious version we've sampled on the peninsula, with a batter registering the right crunch on the crispy index and coated by a rich tangy tomato sauce redolent of great wok-hei. An accompanying dish of stir-fried Bitter Gourd also attested to the chef's mastery with the 'tze-char' genre - green, fresh, well-seasoned and with the most satisfying crunch. Recipes can be passed down the generations but such woking skills will certainly require years of cultivation.
Ah Hei Bak Kut Teh Kuala Lumpur
33A Medan Imbi, Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, 55100, Malaysia
Visiting a culinary hotspot like Ah Hei requires very precise planning; a minute past 30 mins before the Bak Kut Teh institution opens and you will have to contest with droves of local diners and tourists for a seat to tuck into their signature soup here. Many also made the mistake of coming too close to the closing time of 2pm to avoid the lunch crowds and had to be turned away because the soup almost always sells out before closing. However one makes the incursion to this always packed joint, one has nothing but satisfaction to anticipate. The broth is a light and masterfully balanced herbal formula with ribs that are cooked to perfection with succulent meat still hanging on to the bones but barely. One must absolutely try the pork belly here. A variety of dishes like the sesame chicken are also very capably rendered, but our favourite is the stir-fried bitter gourd with egg. The service here is also gold standard, with smiling staff proffering additional hot soup to diners at very regular intervals.
Hakka Restaurant Kuala Lumpur
No. 90 Jalan Raja Chulan , Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Immediately after COVID travel restrictions were lifted in 2022, we made a trip to Hakka Restaurant in KL and was woefully struck by a significant recession in taste and standard that had been maintained for decades. Happily over several fresh visits made over our selection process, we can discern that the excellent standards have returned as we tucked into the signatures like the Steamed Chicken with Wine, Hakka Mashed Tofu and Fried Pork Patties with Salted Fish here. A perennial favourite for locals and tourists alike, Hakka Restaurant is still packed for dinner almost every day and we would recommend making a reservation before heading there. In terms of service, you'd be lucky to meet the affable younger towkay who'd very kindly and pleasantly see to your needs. A run-in with the wretched and always unpleasant older towkay won't enhance your appetite, truth be told, but if food is all that matters, the restaurant is still a culinary institution not to be missed.
Wong Mei Kee Kuala Lumpur
30 Jalan Nyonya, Off Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, 55100, Malaysia
Much has been said of what makes and breaks roast pork but only seeing is believing. Wong Mei Kee has been proffering their signature slabs for decades and makes no secret of neither their ingredients nor methods. Every batch of roast pork is freshly prepared in the morning and roasted in charcoal fired roasting barrels back-of-shop for hours until crackling that shatters like glass in your mouth is expertly presented. All that hours of work churn out very limited goods so diners craving a slice of heaven will have to arrive 30 mins before noon to queue for a table or brave endless queues and mass take-out orders that could easily deprive one of meat. While the roast pork is really excellent par none, we find the char siew a tad too mild tasting and the roast chicken ordinary at best. Nonetheless, judging from the endless crowds pinning for a slice of Wong Mei Kee heaven, many many must think otherwise.
Heun Kee Claypot Chicken Rice Kuala Lumpur
59 Jalan Yew, Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, 55100, Malaysia
You've heard it on this list many times, the standard drill to gain entry to culinary institutions like Heun Kee is to arrive early and queue. We made the mistake of arriving 40 minutes before closing and was turned away. Us and a dozen others who showed up even later. And no one can change the inevitable, not even someone who knows someone who owns the building, or your soul, can effect a change once sold-out is declared. So just how good is the charcoal-fired claypot rice here? Very very good. The rice is fragrant, firm yet soft with the right bite. The sauce is well balanced and not overpowering, like some versions can be. The chicken is succulent and thoroughly packed with flavours. The crispy rice layer at the bottom is one of the best we've sampled - charred but not burnt, super aromatic and crisp. Paired with the ultimate comforting pig stomach soup, nothing comes close to this cherished classic.
Wong Ah Wah Kuala Lumpur
16, Jalan Alor, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Ah, Wong Ah Wah, the 'zhe char' institution that had sparked a hundred KL food memories and defied the good-to-bad route for a million other culinary cliches. This rowdy joint sprouted from the back-end of touristy Jalan Alor has laboured against FnB conventions that pin growth to regression, success to failure, and had through fortitude replicated loads of fabulous comfort nosh like Hokkien Char, Sambal Lala, Crispy Sotong and their superlatively good BBQ Chicken Wings 6-nights a week from 6pm till 4am to largely packed rooms for decades now. The carnival ambience of Alor, the intoxicating aid of cheap beers and the smoulderingly irresistible allure of those perfectly charred chicken wings all collude to etch Wong Ah Wah into the food map of millions of customers, making this joint one of the capital's most visited and cherished culinary address.
Restoran Pau Kee Kuala Lumpur
10, Jalan Utara, Off Jalan Imbi, 55100 Kuala Lumpur
Pau Kee is a nondescript noodle joint tucked furtively away from KL's busy Jalan Imbi known only to a few that are aware of its existence. Thanks to the internet age all that is about to change. Aside from the wonderful Ipoh Hor Fun the shop is famous for, Pau Kee also delivers one of the most delicious curry mee available in the capital. Just how good is the curry mee here? Let's just put it this way - I had a bowl of this flavoursome spicy curry paired unconventionally with 'mee kia', and have been pinning for another bowl since. It's been 3 weeks now since that first experience and I am still dreaming of it, whether it is the soft, succulent chicken with silky smooth texture, the generous serving of curry soaked taupok, or the superbly cooked noodle infused with all the curry flavour but still far from soggy. 'Damn I should had another bowl' never ringed more true.
Hon Kee Kuala Lumpur
93, Jalan Hang Lekir, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Hon Kee has been a Petaling Street treasure for quite some time now but since congee isn't quite as appealing to tourists from afar, the small shop tucked behind the clothing and bag carts clogging KL's Chinatown mostly caters to a local crowd, and of course aficionados of the comforting rice dish. We sampled the 'teng chai chok', a cautionary tale to those not fans of offal but otherwise irresistible to the rest of us, and I can think of few versions that do it better. The intestines are expertly washed and fried to an aromatic crisp devoid of any unpleasant taste or bitterness, and the homemade pork balls are springy and delicious. With nothing more than a generous dash of white pepper, this is a bowl of comfort that can brighten up one's day, especially on a grey and inhospitable day Kuala Lumpur is so capable of dishing out. Hon Kee is also famous for the Chwee Cheong Fun with their own proprietary chilli and sweet sauces and it is indeed a worthy bite.
Sin Kiew Yee Shin Kee Beef Noodles Kuala Lumpur
7a, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Another Petaling Street culinary address that should not be missed, Sin Kiew Yee Shin Kee proffers one of Kuala Lumpur's most delectable and famous beef noodles that is surprisingly good even for a beef noodle grouch like me. The dry version of the noodle is topped with a minced meat sauce packed with delicate flavours and the beef broth is infused with a light hint of spices amidst the prominent notes of a good meat stock. There is nothing obtrusive where flavours are concerned and in terms of texture the very best is delivered whether it is the soft sliced beef, the springy beef balls or the slow-simmered tripe. There are patently no secret to the winsome recipes here, just a steadfast dedication to decades long methods and an insistence on good ingredients that could be easily be adulterated to lower cost and increase profits in today's realities.