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Oct 19, 2009 10:04 PM

Food Tourism in Malaysia and Indonesia


I've got about 2.5 weeks in December that I'm going to spend in Malaysia and Indonesia. My goal as a tourist is simple and always the same: to eat and drink like a local on the mom-and-pop side of the socio-economic spectrum. So it's all about non-tourist restaurants, street food and open-air markets.

In Malaysia, it seems the cities I should explore are Penang and KL. In Indonesia, Jakarta seems obvious, but the rest of the country is much more opaque to me owing to its incredible size and diversity. I would be very grateful for suggestions inside Penang, KL and Jakarta, and also for advice choosing one more destination in Indonesia to maximize my exposure to the food.

My time isn't long, unfortunately, so I'm leaning toward synoptic experiences like Jakarta -- where I assume I can find divergent foods, such as Batak, Manado, Javanese, etc., relatively close to one another -- rather than regions with more narrow cultures and tougher logistics. Finally, I'm happy to be disabused of any of the assumptions in the lines above, and welcome any advice at all.

Thank you for taking the time.

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  1. On Jakarta dining scene, I will recommend following restaurants based on your options:
    -Manado: Beautika, Jln Hang Lekir no.1, Kebayoran Baru;
    -Javanese: Ayam Goreng Ny Suharti, there are a few branches in Jakarta.
    If you like seafood, I will recommend Pondok Laguna (it is very well known, so your hotel concierge will know the address). For Padang food, my favorite but it is less well known even among foodies is Hidangan Baru at Jln Gjah Mada no.80. (better known would be Sederhana or Sari Bundo).
    Jakarta has one of the most underrated dining scene; not much is written even in Chowhound. Hope you will enjoy your trip!!! Just a warning: December is a rainy season in Jakarta and traffic can be terrible when there is heavy rain...

      1. Both are great countries to visit.
        In terms of food, personally, I find a greater diversity in Malaysia mainly due to the diversity of various ethnic and cultural groups i.e.
        - Chinese food from various dialect groups: Hokkien, Cantonese, Teo Chew, Hainanese, Hakka etc
        - Malay: traditional Malay, Malay-Indian cuisine, javanese
        - Nyonya: a mix heritage of Chinese-Malay cuisine
        - Indian: northern and southern indian cuisine

        In Malaysia, a must is the seafood. When in Kuala Lumpur, take a trip to Klang (about 45 minutes drive from the heart of Kuala Lumpur - non peak hour) for great seafood.

        Also, do make sure you make a trip to the local night market (Pasar Malam) whereby you will find lots of local ingredients and street food being sold. Preferably, take a trip to an area called Bangsar (about 15 minutes drive from KL city). They have a night market every Sunday located next to a shopping mall called Bangsar Village. It typically starts about 6pm till about 9.30pm. Make sure you go with an empty stomach and fill it as you walk along the street. I love munching along and having the fresh sugar cane juice to wash down my food.

        If you love good chinese food, make sure you visit Overseas Restaurant in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Address: 84 – 88 , Jalan Imbi. Kuala Lumpur. Tel No: +603-21449911. Their famous roast pork is amazing (crisp outside and tender inside), the double boiled chicken soup (ordered one day in advance) and beef brisket (ordered one day in advance) are just yummy. Am already drooling as I type!

        For Indian food, take a trip to Kanna Curry House. Address: No. 29 Jalan 17/45
        46400 Petaling Jaya Selangor (Non-peak hour: about 20-30 minutes drive from heart of Kuala Lumpur). Tel No: 603-79584814. Serves amazing banana leave rice with assorted vegetables and papadams. Then you can choose to have fried spicy fish, its tasty fried chicken, love their masala lamb and lots more.

        For Malay food, I have to sheepishly admit that I normally crash at my friends'place for great home-cooked meals.

        I could go on and on in relation to the places to visit for food but will stop here just in case I do bore you. Do feel free to buzz me and will point you the place(s) for food that you are craving for.

        1. If you have time, it's definitely worth taking a day or overnight trip to Malacca, about two hours south of KL. Small, interesting city, which is famous for chicken and rice balls, fantastic chendol, and very good Peranakan food.

          1 Reply
          1. re: baltoellen

            Malacca is also famous for pineapple tarts and iced kachang. Yum. Only allocate like 1.5 days there because there's not much to do...

          2. I just moved to Malaysia in August, and I'm loving the food so far. One of my go-to blogs for street food is Eating Asia at I do find that Singapore is great in terms of accessibility of street food -- they've institutionalized their street hawkers in to hawker centers, keeping the original flavors of street eating relatively intact. There's a book published in English and available on Amazon called Makansutra which lists and organizes food by food item. Even if you're not going to Singapore, I've found it an invaluable resource in helping me identify what the foods are that I'm eating here in Kuala Lumpur.

            Lastly, I've just recently started a blog myself on our food and other experiences at There's not much on it yet, but maybe it might help.

            Good luck!