It’s well-known that Malaysia is a foodie’s nirvana. Malaysians will travel far and wide to get their hands on a plate of delicious Malaysian food. Time to pack your bags, hop in the car for a weekend road trip and entice your taste buds. From freshly baked scones in Cameron Highlands strawberry jam to smoky Penang char kway teow, juicy. Enjoy the Melaka Nonya pork satay and wash it all down with a bowl of cooling beancurd. Not to forget a cup of intense Kluang butter roasted coffee.
KL to Penang | Best road trip for wok hei smokiness, cooling cendol and addictive assam addictiveness
Total distance: 355km | Suggested duration: 3 days/2nights
Sekinchan rice fields and Sungei Besar seafood: To get the most out of this road trip take the back road to Penang. Avoid the dreary AH2. Instead, get on the E25 and head out to the coast. This is where you can enjoy traversing small coastal towns on your way up to Penang.
Make a short stop at Sekinchan. A town famed for its endless and beautiful emerald rice paddies that make for stunning photos. If you are a rice expert, you might be excited about joining a free tour of a rice factory. Although foodies might be more enthusiastic to get their hands on some of the plump mangoes. These are being sold on stalls on the main road. Avoid the temptation of seafood restaurants.
But instead get back in the car, wind down the windows. Enjoy the seaside breezes as you make your way north to Sungei Besar. This small town has a plainly laid back ambience, with many of the residents working as a fisherman. Foodies drive up here from KL to enjoy the super-fresh seafood. We recommend popping into Chong Thai Restaurant for steamed white snapper, kung pao squid and shrimps in butter sauce; a meal of kings.
Taiping’s hawker treats: Proceed north with a full belly and as the sun starts to set. You should be arriving in the charming and famously rainy town of Taiping. Build up your hunger with a walk around Taiping Lake Gardens. Take a stroll through the well preserved historic heart of town before checking out the town’s food treats.
The most popular place in town is the Larut Matang Hawker Centre on Jln Panggung Wayang. Enjoy delicious and deeply sinful fried fish ball kway teow. A wide range of kueh and amazing ondeh-ondeh and kue lapis also available too. Stall 83 is famous for its wok hei infused char kway teow, an absolute steal at RM3. Dessert fans will fall in love with Taiping cendol at Ansari Cendol, with overflowing coconut milk and gula Melaka.
Before travelling back on the road it’s worth getting a quality breakfast in at Yut Sun Restaurant on Jln Pasar. Locals flock here for Hainanese treats including Hainanese chicken chop and egg rolls. Wash it all down with intensely rich coffee. It will make the drive up to Penang fly by.
Georgetown’s culinary heritage: Journey over the bridge into Penang will make feel your tummy rumble. Enter one of Malaysia’s prime makan destinations. Start your journey in Penang’s beautiful Georgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Head to Jln Macalister at Yi Garden for a plate of Penang’s renowned char kway teo with duck eggs. Packed with wok hei punch and delightful to the last bite.
Laksa aficionados will want to give the Penang laksa at Laksalicious at 123 Hutton Lane a try. The tangy assam flavour leaving an addictive buzz. Fans of Indian grub won’t want to miss out of nasi kandar from Hameediyah on Lebuh Campbell. The fragrant yellow rice coated with curried meat and vegetables and liberally doused with a flaming hot sauce.
It’s not all about immense feasts here. Try the southern Indian crepe-like apom manis. Or the Teochew style cendol when you are in need of a bit of a sweet lift. The most qualified people to guide you around Penang’s hawker treats are the locals. They are passionate about the city’s food heritage. If you want to grasp what’s hot, don’t be afraid to ask around, food is a language itself here.
KL to Ipoh | Best road trip for fresh strawberries, mountain views and frothy white coffee
Total distance: 295km | Suggested duration: 3 days/2 nights
The charms of Tapah town: The sweat and grime of the tropics can get a bit much after a while. So head out of the city on the AH2. Drive north leaving the city behind as you make your way to Tapah. It is the gateway to the glorious Cameron Highlands. By the time you’ve arrived in Tapah, you’ll probably be feeling a bit peckish. For a slap-up lunch head to Restoran Hao Yi Lou in Taman Tapah Indah. Treat yourself to a plate of deep-fried mantis shrimps with salted eggs, a steamed catfish with ginger. Enjoy a masterstroke of the dish in Four Heavenly Kings. It is sautéed vegetables with sambal belacan, fern leaves, petai and ladies fingers.
Cameron Highlands farms and fresh air: From here it’s a windy drive up to the Cameron Highlands. The temperature seems to drop deliciously with every turn so wind down those windows and enjoy the fresh air. At an altitude of between 1100m and 1600m, the Cameron Highlands is all about freshness. Fresh air, fresh strawberries and sweet honey. It’s a great place to tour farms and grab a taster or two.
Start at Ee Feng Gu honey farm. Which has a gorgeous garden and kids play area with a shop selling a selection of fresh honey. Before heading over to Raaju’s Hill Strawberry Farm just outside Brinchang where you can pick strawberries. It is RM30 for half a kilo. Order marvellous fresh strawberry juice. Or hannel your British side with a tea and scones with jam set.
You can’t possibly claim to be a foodie and miss out on some of Malaysia’s finest tea. Pop over to the Boh Sungei Palas Tea Estate. It has free tea factory tours. There are a gift shop and café too. Stay perky with a fresh cuppa.
Ipoh’s renowned cuisine: It’s a 2-hour drive to Ipoh from the exhilarating Cameron Highlands. As you leave the beautiful hills in your wake, comfort yourself with the knowledge that you’re heading towards some of the finest food the country has to offer. Ipoh is renowned for its heritage colonial architecture and exquisitely preserved Chinatown alongside its fantastic array of food. The first thing you’ll need after a long drive is a cup of famous Ipoh white coffee.
Sin Yoon Loong at 15 Jln Bandar Timah has been going since 1937. It serves up its fragrant coffee with toasted slices of Hainanese white bread spread with homemade kaya and butter. Enjoy a walk around the city before weighing up your dinner choices. Ipoh is notable for its bean sprouts. One of the best spots in town for a chicken and bean sprout spectacular is Lau Wong Tauge Ayam on Jln Yau Tet Shin. The chicken is high-quality free-range. It is served with crunchy bean sprouts from the nearby Kinta Valley. It is matched with their lively chilli sauce and you have the perfect Ipoh dinner.
On a warm evening, grab a bowl of cooling beancurd for RM1 from Funny Mountain on Jln Theatre. Though one might not be enough!
KL to Melaka | Best road trip for coastal exploration and Melaka’s late night delights
Total distance: 160km | Suggested duration: 3 days/2 nights
Coastal jaunt from Banting to Tanjong Sepat: You don’t need to drive too far from the capital to find a bit of small-town charm and quality makan. We suggest getting on to the E26 and then the 5 to Banting in Selangor. Banting is a small and quiet town famous for its poultry and betel leaf industry. It is close to the beach at Morib and the old historic town of Jugra.
A good bet in town is Seong Lai Bak Kut Teh on Jln Delima 22, always crowded for lunch. A strong, intensely herbal soup that pulls in the punters. After lunch get back in your car for more small-town exploration by following the coastal road down to Tanjong Sepat. You can get a bowl of remarkably fresh fish soup on Lorong 5 in an ancient-looking coffee shop with a zinc roof. Mushroom fans will want to pop into Ganofarm Medicinal Mushroom Farm. An excellent display of mushrooms of all shapes and sizes. It’s all very Alice in Wonderland.
Melaka’s vibrant diverse food scene: Pull into historic Melaka around dusk and make your first port of call Hajjah Mona Asam Pedas on Taman Kota Laksmana to sample their long menu of sour and spicy delights. It’s a modest eatery that gets packed in the evenings. Take your pick from different types of fish starting at RM4.50.
Melaka is justifiably famous for its Peranakan cuisine and a good bet is Nancy’s Kitchen in the heart of the charming old town on Jln Hang Lekir. Be ready to queue here. But the wait is worth it for its solid honest sambal sotong and sek bak (braised pork). Try to get here for lunch as the place closes in the late afternoon. Tandoori fans should make a beeline for Pak Putra Tandoori on Jln Laksmana. A shop which is claimed to sell the finest tandoori chicken in all Malaysia. This place shuts after midnight so great after a bit of night exploration of the beautifully lit up city centre.
One of Melaka’s most famous culinary offerings is satay. If you head to Sun may Hiong Satay House on Jln Kota Laksmana, you’ll get a chance to try beautiful sweet Hainanese pork satay served with crushed pineapple in the sauce. It’s a truly delicious way to round off a trip to Melaka.
KL to Johor Bahru | Best road trip for off the beaten path treats
Total distance: 390km | Suggested duration: 3 days / 2 nights
Small town exploration: Instead of enduring the monotonous AH2 down to JB, get on the smaller E21 and 10 and enjoy the beautiful rolling countryside heading towards Segamat. More energetic road trippers might fancy a mountain climbing mission up Gunung Ledang. A short drive from Segamat, though those more inclined towards gluttony will be more interested in checking out the small town’s food offerings.
Segamat is more of a place to stop off on the way to somewhere else so think of this as a snack break and pop into Fu Sean Biscuits on Jalan Kuning. You can see biscuits being made such as the flaky sweet lotus paste filled biskut panjang. These biscuits cost RM3 for a dozen so pick up a few packs to fuel you for the short drive over to exciting Muar, one of Johor’s major foodie haunts and a wonderfully charming and historic town.
A good area to visit in Muar is Jln Haji Abu, also known as Glutton Street and here you can stroll along in the evening and take your pick of succulent pork satay, spicy Muar otak otak and for a real calorific treat, a visit to an O Chien (oyster omelette) stall is a must.
The underrated foodie heavens of Kluang and JB: After a night in Muar, it’s easy to be tempted to plough on to JB. But hold back and head back into the interior of Johor for a visit to Kluang. Going to Kluang might not seem like one of your major priorities in life. But once you have sampled the food scene here, you’ll be glad you gave the little town a try. The first port of call has to be Kluang Railway Station Café. It is an old fashioned Kopitiam with a wonderful old-world ambience.
Sit back and enjoy a Kluang coffee (the beans are roasted in butter), and help yourself to a nasi lemak or kueh which are left on the table for you to take your pick from. Another good bet in Kluang is Tangkak Beef on Jln Langsat famed for its amazingly fragrant bowls of beef broth with tripe, innards and beef slithers. The drive down the 91 to JB should be smooth sailing after your Kluang adventures. Johor Bahru, Malaysia’s second city doesn’t frequently feature on many Malaysian’s top makan destinations, but the city has a wealth of eateries to explore that’ll leave you well pleased that you made the effort to get here.
Hwa Mei Bak Kut Teh is located under the shade of a huge and ancient tree on Jln Lumba Kuda and has been in business since the 60s serving up bowls of subtle, light Johor Bak Kut Teh. Match that up with a dish of pork belly and rich, gelatinous pigskin and you are in piggy heaven. Dinner at Tapai Tang in Taman Melodies won’t disappoint. The salt-baked chicken here is marinated in spices then coated in salt and wrapped in parchment paper and baked. Serve this with piquant chilli sauce for a truly Malaysian taste sensation.