One of the best and most satisfying ways to explore a country’s culture is through its food, particularly the street fare favored by locals. We got to sample Kuala Lumpur’s street food scene last April with Food Tour Malaysia and it was a very filling experience, in terms of the food we tasted and the things we learned about Malaysian life.
Case in point: the tour started in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur’s Little India, where the ladies in the group were given a strand of jasmine flowers to be tied around our wrists. According to our guide Charlie, Indian women traditionally used these sweet-smelling garlands to keep fresh throughout the day. It was a nice touch and a practical one too, as throughout the 4-hour tour we navigated a maze of Indian eateries, Chinese noodle houses, dry and wet markets, and numerous streets under both the hot sun and a sudden downpour.
I’m not going to repeat everything that was discussed on the tour — well, I couldn’t anyway, because I wasn’t religiously taking down notes, I was too busy eating! But also because you really have to try the tour yourself if you’re ever in Kuala Lumpur. Suffice it to say it was a fantastic experience, one of the highlights of our 10-day trip. The topics ranged from Malaysia’s different cultural groups (the main three being the Malays, the Chinese, and the Indians) to the monthly minimum wage in Kuala Lumpur (around MYR 2,000) to how most Australians don’t actually say “g’day mate.” (And while we’re on the topic, most Filipinos don’t really say “mabuhay” in normal life, either.) The range of nationalities in the tour group was pretty broad as well, including English, Aussies, Dutch, Filipino, and a Swiss girl who was on day 2 of her round-the-world trip.
Most important: the range of food! I’ve always loved Indian cuisine so they had me at the first meal, a mash-up of dishes from an eatery in Brickfields where we were the only non-locals around. And, to be honest, I’m just saying “dishes” because I don’t remember the names of the food we ate; I just remember how good they were! My other favorites from the tour were the curry puffs, deep-fried lentils, and cendol, which is similar to the Philippine halo-halo. But the best thing ever was actually accidental: the black tea + ginger + condensed milk concoction that we decided to order while taking refuge from the rain inside a restaurant that was not one of the food tour’s usual stops.