Eating at Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur is a must, particularly if visiting Penang (Malaysia’s island celebrated for its street food) isn’t on your itinerary. But be ready: Evenings get hectic on Jalan Alor as hungry locals and tourists cram in for the sights, smells, and tastes of the city’s busiest street-food scene.
What to Expect
Holding no punches, Jalan Alor can be loud, bright, chaotic, and overwhelming for first-timers. For an easier experience, arrive right at sunset (around 6 p.m.) when most places are set up but not yet crowded. You might be able to look at the menu boards and shop around a bit without restaurant staff frantically urging you to sit down.
During peak time, touts will be pushing menus your direction at each restaurant trying to tempt you away from the competition. Street performers sing and play music while pulling amplifiers at full volume making for a noisy affair.
Yes, you can probably find standalone restaurants in Kuala Lumpur offering better food in a more tranquil environment. But you come to eat at Jalan Alor for the choices, people watching, and notoriety of the most famous street food scene in Kuala Lumpur.
There is some method to the madness of Jalan Alor. If beginning from the northern (Changkat Bukit Bintang) end, you’ll find most sit-down restaurants on the left. Carts, hawker stalls, and smaller eateries occupy the right side of the street.
Nearer the main intersection are carts selling fruit, sweets, dim sum, and finger foods. As you walk farther south, you’ll come to cheaper restaurants (look for yellow tents) along the right side. The far (southern) end of Jalan Alor is occupied by a cluster of Thai eateries.
Obscured behind the tables and wall of restaurant carts are a scattering of shops and a couple minimarts should you need something.
What to Eat at Jalan Alor
Seafood and Chinese cuisine receive a lot of focus at the bigger restaurants on Jalan Alor and upon closer inspection you’ll discover that menus for many of the restaurants are similar.
The default manner of eating is to choose a restaurant then begin ordering family-size dishes to share with rice. For solo diners, menus usually have a handful of noodle dishes and personal-sized choices. Char kway teow and pan mee are local noodle favorites.
The hawker food at Restoran Dragon View (in the middle of Jalan Alor) offers a street food experience similar to that seen in Georgetown, Penang. Everyone at the table can order as they like from the various carts where experts cook only one or two things all night long.
Some other unique favorites to try at Jalan Alor are grilled stingray (delicious!), frog porridge, oyster omelets, barbecued chicken wings, and the contentious durian fruit.
Snacks and Small Treats
You don’t necessarily have to commit to a sit-down restaurant experience at Jalan Alor. Ignore all those menu-wielding touts, and stick to the right side where the food carts are parked. There are few different types of carts:
- Lok-Lok: A very Malaysian treat, lok-lok carts offer raw vegetables, meats, and other items on skewers that are then boiled to taste. They’re served with your choice of sauces such as peanut or spicy. Skewers are color coded by price.
- Satay: Follow the sweet smoke to find small meat skewers marinated and grilled over hardwood fires.
- Healthy Hawker Carts: Purplish Japanese sweet potatoes steamed with skin on and grilled corn are sold as healthy food-to-go options from carts opposite the restaurants.
- Dim Sum: Colorful, handmade dim sum is steamed in batches and sold by the piece.
Desserts to Try at Jalan Alor
Along with the obvious dessert choices on offer in restaurants, Jalan Alor has some unique options for dessert.
- Fresh Fruit: Although priced higher than seen in markets and supermarkets, plenty of exciting Southeast Asian fruit is on offer at Jalan Alor. Keep an eye out for mangosteens, rambutans, and other specialty fruits that are tricky to find at home. Many proprietors will offer you a sample of unusual fruits if you ask.
- Coconut Ice Cream: Sangkaya is a local favorite selling sweet treats made from coconut milk including coconut ice cream. Find them two-thirds of the way down Jalan Alor tucked away on the left side.
- Durian Ice Cream: Yes, someone did it. Try if you dare—you may be pleasantly surprised.
- Sugar Cane Juice: Vendors use a press to squeeze the good stuff directly out of the cane while you watch.
- Air Mata Kuching: Locals love cooling down with this sugary drink made from sweet monk fruit, longan, and melon.
- Rojak: This fruit salad smothered in a warm, sweet sauce and crushed peanuts is a local favorite.
Tips for Enjoying Jalan Alor
- Arrive around sunset for an opportunity to stroll the entire strip before committing to a restaurant.
- A service charge and tax are added to the bill in many restaurants. No need to tip more.
- Although Kuala Lumpur is statistically way safer than cities of the same size in the United States, there is the potential for scams and petty theft—especially in a place as busy as Jalan Alor. Keep your wallet and phone somewhere only you can reach.
- Weather makes all the difference for a good experience at Jalan Alor. Nearly all of the seating space is outdoors. Although many restaurants have umbrellas or small awnings, there just isn’t enough cover to keep everyone out of the rain. If one of Kuala Lumpur’s infamous downpours seems likely, opt to eat somewhere else.
- Eateries often share grungy bathrooms or have arrangements with shops down the street. Jalan Alor may not be the best place to eat if you’re already experiencing stomach distress.
Other Food Options in the Area
If the scene at Jalan Alor seems like too much work for your energy levels, there are plenty of alternatives in the area.
- Changkat Bukit Bintang: Changkat Bukit Bintang, a small street loaded with food and nightlife venues, is literally around the corner from Jalan Alor. You’ll find everything from tapas to Irish pub food.
- Pavilion KL: The swanky food court in the basement of the Pavilion KL mall has something for everyone. It’s a particularly good option when weather isn’t cooperating. For trendier choices, check out the Connection, an open-air breezeway through the mall lined with bars and restaurants.
- Nasi Kandar: Restoran Al Sarifa is a large, 24-hour nasi kandar eatery just two streets north of Jalan Alor. It’s a popular place to try local specialties such as roti and Malaysia’s beloved teh tarik.
Getting to Jalan Alor
Jalan Alor parallels Bukit Bintang; it’s just one street to the north. If exiting the Bukit Bintang MRT station, walk south (away from Pavilion KL mall) then turn right at the first major intersection (next to KFC). The first busy street on the left is Jalan Alor.
If exiting the Bukit Bintang monorail station, walk left when facing the McDonald’s, away from Lot10 mall. Take a right on Changkat Bukit Bintang, and you’ll see Jalan Alor on the left.
What to Do After Eating at Jalan Alor
Seeing the iconic Petronas Towers lit up at night is a must. The park is good for grabbing photos with perspective. Even better, the upscale mall below is perfect for grabbing dessert. To get there from Jalan Alor, walk around 20 minutes north of the Pavilion KL mall or take the LRT train to the KLCC station.
If you’d rather stay in the area, you could get a nightcap at Changkat Bukit Bintang. Another option is to walk or take a taxi 15 minutes to “the Helipad,” (Heli Lounge Bar) Kuala Lumpur’s working-helipad-turned-rooftop-bar. Try to arrive before 9 p.m., if you show up later there is an entrance fee and a strictly-enforced dress code.