The quickest way to experience the city is to get down and dirty with the local fare. And what better way to get down with our famed food city than with the al fresco (otherwise known as street) dining options? The unbeatable cacophony of local dialects accompanied by the street view and the wafting flavours of local dishes are not to be missed.

While it may not be as glamorous as our fair city’s fine dining options, here lies the finest compilation of hawker foods not to be missed in the Klang Valley.

Wallet-friendly Nasi lemak at Warong Kaklong, Selangor

No other dish in Malaysia is as famous as the nasi lemak. Consisting of rice cooked in coconut milk and traditionally served with anchovies, cucumbers, peanuts, and boiled eggs, the dish is rounded up with the addition of a spicy chilli paste called sambal.

Although initially invented as a breakfast dish, it soon surpassed its original purpose and became the Malaysian national dish, which is pretty much eaten at any time. Our list begins with one of the best (budget) options.

To indulge in the full Malaysian experience, head over to Warong Kaklong, a breakfast and lunch spot over at Bandar Tun Hussein Onn in Cheras. The stall can be found among a small cluster of similar stalls that mushroom around a local McDonald’s outlet, but this is not where you go for a side of french fries or a large Coca-Cola.

Wrapped in banana leaf and sold at less than RM1 per packet, added toppings (like sambal petai, fried fish, or chicken) to beef up your packet of nasi lemak will hike the price a tad, but this is one nasi lemak you can’t go wrong with.

Address: 10 Jalan Suasana 2/7, Tun Hussein Onn, 43200 Cheras, Selangor
Contact: +6011 1140 8639

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Ikan bakar at Mat Teh Ikan Bakar, Kuala Lumpur

While ‘ikan’ means ‘fish’, and ‘bakar’ means ‘burn’ or ‘grill’, the term ikan bakar usually refers to a medley of seafood from stingray, seabass, mackerel, squid, cockles, prawns, and more, cooked over an open grill to charred perfection.

And if grilled seafood is your game, Mat Teh is the name you need to remember. It is located beside Dato Keramat LRT station and is easily one of the best go-to stalls for grilled seafood in Kuala Lumpur.

On the grill is at least 30 pieces of grilled fish in the cooking process, all neatly wrapped in banana leaves for that extra flavour. The fish, all marinated with their special turmeric sauce and then wrapped with banana leaves before being grilled, is not one to sleep on.

Oh, and don’t be surprised if your choice of grilled fish also comes with a generous amount of ulam (Malay style salad), sambal, soup, and a plate of steamed rice. It’s customary to have your protein on the side of some veg and rice.

Address: 10x Jalan Keramat, Kampung Datuk Keramat, 54000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6016 366 3123

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Rojak and mee rebus at Rojak Bellamy, Kuala Lumpur

Another iconic eatery in town, Rojak Bellamy at Bukit Petaling, has been around for decades. Undoubtedly, this means that their craft, and by proxy, their offerings have been perfected over time.

The must-try here includes the rojak sotong, which comes with plenty of tender pieces of brown squid coated with spicy-sweet sambal. This delicious thick sauce is a good balance of sweet and savoury and is a perfect combination as it lathers the prawn fritters, fried bean curd, julienned cucumber, and turnip.

Another must-try? The mee rebus, which comes with yellow egg noodles, bean sprouts, and a thick gravy that is mildly spicy and fragrant. Oh, and remember to squeeze in some lime juice from the lime wedge it comes with for that burst of tang that really livens up the flavours!

Already salivating? The Rojak Bellamy stall can easily be found along Jalan Istana, where the old National Palace is situated; make a right turn before the main gate, and there the generations-old stall will be.

Address: Jalan Bellamy, Bukit Petaling, 50460 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6019 215 3606

Horlicks sesame fried chicken at Gerai Ah Kow, Kuala Lumpur

Fried chicken is a pretty universal food. Cooked in various unique styles worldwide, such as the K-fever aided Korean fried chicken, the evergreen fast food Kentucky Fried Chicken, the local favourite salted egg fried chicken, and so many other variations. But have you heard of Horlicks sesame fried chicken?

The queue-worthy Gerai Ah Kow over at the Medan Selera on Lorong Raja Muda Abdul Aziz has been peddling delicious fried chicken for almost 40 years. It is now a beloved locale for locals and tourists alike.

Currently run by Uncle Ah Kow’s son, who uses the original fried chicken recipe from 1983, it’s stilll as good as it was nearly 40 years ago. The addition of Horlicks adds to the crispy texture of the fried chicken while the sesame seeds add a nutty crunch — yum!

Address: 2 Medan Selera, Lorong Raja Muda Abdul Aziz, 50400 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6016 233 2273

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Stacked street burgers at BiG Lava Burgers, Kuala Lumpur

With a stall name emphasising the word BiG, you just know this juicy burger is made with uber thick patties. What of the Lava, you ask? Well, the patties (with an option of chicken, beef, or lamb) are stuffed with cheese! Lots of it. Each bite of their signature burger gives an oozy gooey experience that tastes like a cheesy paradise.

Got a big appetite? Opt for a double patty and get 400 grams of minced meat and cheesy goodness. Still not convinced? Make your burger into a set meal and get a soft drink and two extra sausages on the side for a few additional Ringgit. Now, that’s what we call a value-added late-night meal.

Address: 28d, Jalan Medan Midah, Taman Midah, 56000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6012 327 6665

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Smashed burger at Local Area Burger, Kuala Lumpur

We could sit and debate the different values of a loaded burger patty versus a smashed patty all day. But then we figured, why not just add both to our list of iconic eats in Kuala Lumpur, and we did just that.

Suppose you’re looking for a cheeseburger that promises sheer satisfaction as you sink your teeth into a lightly crunchy patty that plunges into the savoury juiciness of the meat. In that case, Local Area Burger is where you want to be.

Like most roadside burgers in and around Kuala Lumpur, there’s nothing pretentious here — just a little roadside food truck that serves heavenly smashed patties, slathered with caramelised onions, sitting proudly between buttered, toasted buns.

Address: Lorong Rahim Kajai 14, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6011 1237 8900

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Tong Sui and Chinese desserts at Ruby Restaurant, Kuala Lumpur

Currently helmed by the fourth generation of the owner’s family, Ruby’s desserts are handmade from scratch. Think of how your grandmother would spend half a day in the kitchen to make you your favourite dish for a special occasion.

You can practically taste the care that goes into each bowl of peanut paste, cha wu (peanuts and black sesame mix), steamed egg custard, and so on. So confident are the folks over at Ruby Restaurant that they have a sign that says, “If it’s not good, no need to pay.”

Now, that’s the confidence we like to see in an over a century-old eatery!

Address: Jalan Landak, No. 32, Jalan Kancil, Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +603 2141 3250

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Hokkien mee at Tong Lian Kee, Kuala Lumpur

Another decades-old stall makes its way on the list (KL-ites are a big fan of our street fare, after all). And again, this is another one of those ‘no signage outlets’ with a makeshift kitchen and tables.

The owner himself has been preparing his Hokkien mee using charcoal since they started, and still insists upon it today, as it gives that wok hei (breath of the wok) flavour to his noodles.

The savoury Hokkien mee here is pretty standard, and you won’t be finding any gimmicks or shenanigans here — just a healthy dose of noodles coated with dark sauce accompanied by pork slices, liver, prawns, cabbage, and a sprinkling of crispy pork lard. Suffice to say that this is a non-halal eatery, so those with restrictions may want to steer clear of this one.

Address: Jalan Sarawak, Pudu, 55200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

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Claypot chicken rice at Kedai Kopi Pudu Satu Enam Lapan, Kuala Lumpur

The nameless stall that opens in the evenings usually draws a long queue, so if you have a hankering for claypot chicken rice, you best be prepared to wait for a little. However, you can be assured that the wait will be well worth it as the uncle has been serving the dish for over 30 years!

As a matter of fact, he still insists on cooking each pot with a charcoal grill to ensure the right flavours and consistencies are retained. The savoury and meaty sauce is tossed by hand to coat each grain of rice. Accompanied with tender, meaty chicken chunks, every spoonful is absolutely delectable with a luscious tang of Shao Xin wine.

Address: 21, Jalan Kancil, Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur

Non-halal nasi lemak at Ann Nasi Lemak, Kuala Lumpur

If there is one dish that Malaysians cannot say ‘no’ to, it would be the nasi lemak, which is why it bags two spots on our list. One of the most popular stalls at ICC Pudu, Ann Nasi Lemak is famed for being one of the best Chinese nasi lemak in the Klang Valley.

What differentiates Ann’s from Warong Kaklong goes beyond the price, such as its non-halal selection of toppings, including a pork skin curry that many returning customers absolutely swear by.

Address: Lot G-24, ICC Pudu, Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur