Anthony Bourdain in Kuala Lumpur: 6 Spots Where Tony Ate
A vibrant and bustling capital city, Kuala Lumpur often serves as the gateway to Malaysia and is the first stop for international tourists. With a population estimated to be around 2 million, Kuala Lumpur is a melting pot of different cultures. While describing the nation’s capital, Anthony Bourdain compared it to New York where he noted the significance of ethnic influences are central to defining and developing the food culture of a city.
Anthony Bourdain visited Kuala Lumpur to film season 1 (episode 5, “Into the Jungle”) of No Reservations, and to film season 6 (episode 6, “Borneo”) of Parts Unknown. These were his only two on-screen visits to Kuala Lumpur, and he visited other parts of Malaysia as part of these trips.
If you’re planning a trip to Malaysia and want to eat well, you might want to seek out some of the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Kuala Lumpur. Below you’ll find a list of those spots, as well as what Tony ate in each one. You can use this as a guide to plan your trip, and to sample a nice variety of the cuisines and cultures you can find in this mixing pot of a city.
Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visited Kuala Lumpur?
The No Reservations episode is available on Amazon and Hulu, and the Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.
No Reservations (2005)
Kuala Lumpur is modern and traditional at the same time. Anthony Bourdain found and showed a blending of local cultures such as Malay, Chinese, and Indian, alongside an international community of transplants from other countries.
Kampung Baru Night Market
Anthony Bourdain’s culinary adventure in Kuala Lumpur started with a visit to Kampung Baru accompanied by the famous Malaysian chef, Chef Wan. Located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Kampung Baru is a predominantly Malay ethnic area. Here Bourdain sampled different local cuisines recommended by Chef Wan.
- Cencaluk – A traditional Southeast Asian condiment, cencaluk is made from fermented tiny shrimp. This pungent and strong condiment is used sparingly due to its intense flavor.
- Nasi Campur – Nasi Campur (direct translation is mixed rice) is a simple and affordable meal consisting of rice, mixed vegetables, and meat of your choice.
- Steamed Bao – Steamed baos are Chinese by origin, typically filled with minced pork. However, the version that Bourdain tried was adapted for the Muslim community and made with minced chicken.
- Banana Flower Curry – A rich and decadent dish made by cooking banana flowers in turmeric coconut milk curry.
The following evening, Bourdain took to the streets to indulge in another local delicacy: the Torpedo soup. This Malay specialty is made with bull penis and served in a spicy curry broth. It’s rumored to enhance one’s sexual prowess.
In addition to the soup, recommended by the server, Bourdain also ordered a cup of Tongkat Ali Coffee. This special brew is made by pouring the coffee back and forth between decanters, resulting in a frothy and delectable beverage. The coffee is infused with the local root Tongkat Ali, which is said to have natural aphrodisiac properties.
Steam Fish Head Food Stall KL Chong Yen
The following day, Bourdain caught up with Eddie David, a tattoo artist, to discuss his upcoming trip to East Malaysia to visit the indigenous Iban community. The Iban people were once known as headhunters, and Bourdain was eager to learn more about their traditions and culture.
Over lunch, they savored the outdoor ambiance of a restaurant under the shade of a tree while indulging in steamed fish head. The star of the meal was the two giant freshwater grass carp heads, which were double-steamed to perfection and served with a rich sauce made of brown bean paste, anise, and curry. To complement the meal, they also ordered a plate of fish stomach.
Aunty Aini’s Kampung Cafe
Aunty Aini’s Kampung Cafe, located in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, was featured twice in Bourdain’s show – first in No Reservations and again in Parts Unknown. Here, Bourdain tried various traditional Malay dishes, such as paku pakis salad (a type of local fern), pucuk ubi (cassava leaves), tempoyak (fermented durian), and rendang beef curry – a rich and tender coconut beef stew.
Parts Unknown (2015)
A decade later, Bourdain made his way back to Kuala Lumpur, this time to film Parts Unknown for his “Borneo” episode. In this episode, he revisited the indigenous Iban community in East Malaysia, where he had previously featured in season 1 of No Reservations.
Hawker Stalls at Jalan Alor
He began his journey with street food in Kuala Lumpur, at Jalan Alor. Situated in downtown Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Alor offers locals and tourists a vibrant street dining experience at night.
Bourdain indulged in some of the best hawker food Malaysia has to offer. He savored the siew yoke meen, a scrumptious dish of sweet and savory caramelized pork served on top of fried noodles. Bourdain also had black pepper crabs, char kuey teow, stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, prawns, and topped with bean sprouts, and grilled chicken wings.
Before Bourdain left for Sarawak, Bourdain caught up with Eddie David from No Reservations once again before embarking on his trip to Sarawak. They had banana leaf curry rice, a popular Southern Indian dish, at Seetha Ram. Diners are served rice on a banana leaf with an array of curries and sides to choose from.
Kuala Lumpur Food Tours to Try
Food tours are a great way to sample lots of cultures and cuisines, and there are some fantastic market tours in Kuala Lumpur. If this is part of your travel style, here are some suggestions.
Bourdain’s gastronomic adventures in Kuala Lumpur truly highlighted the diverse mix of culinary experiences the city has to offer. From the bustling street food markets at Jalan Alor to the traditional Malay cuisine in Kampung Baru, and the Southern Indian banana leaf curry rice, Kuala Lumpur proved to be a paradise for foodies. Kuala Lumpur is a city that offers culinary adventures to be discovered by tourists who are looking for a unique gastronomic experience.
Have any questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Kuala Lumpur? Let me know in the comments below.