Savour the very best Malaysia has to offer with this delicious 11-day gastronomic pilgrimage from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, the country’s culinary capital. Reflecting Malaysia’s multicultural mix, the cuisine is a tantalising blend of Malay, Indian and Chinese dishes with a healthy dose of European influences. Every day is a feast of the senses as you wander through fragrant markets and spice gardens, make your very own delicacies at cookery workshops, munch on tasty street food and dine in the most renowned restaurants.
Kuala Lumpur: Munch on some goreng pisang – the deep-fried banana fritters that are a local delicacy
Penang: Few of the mosques or churches in the island can match the colour of Wat Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist temple
George Town: Try Tambun biscuits, which are flaky pastries filled with a sweet mung bean paste fried with shallots
Chinatown: Stroll through the bustling Petaling Street for an insight into the Kuala Lumpur’s thriving Chinese community
The high life: Dine in 23rd and 57th floor restaurants boasting panoramic views of Kuala Lumpur’s futuristic skyline
Cooking classes: Pick your own fresh ingredients from the morning market and then make your own Malay lunch
Kuala Lumpur: Visit the top sights and attractions in the capital with a lifestyle and culture tour
Victorian values: Eat at colonial-era mansions in George Town and see how the elite lived in the halcyon days of empire
Trishaw treats: Feast your way through George Town on a trishaw, stopping at hawker’s stalls, bakeries and eateries
Upon arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, you will be met at the arrivals hall by a representative and transferred to what will be your accommodation for the next five nights, the five-star JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur. This exclusive hotel is located in what is popularly known as the Golden Triangle, the main shopping and nightlife district. Facilities include a fitness centre, outdoor swimming pool, whirlpool and sauna, and tennis courts. Once you have checked in and are all settled in, meet at the lobby for departure at 19:00 hours to Bijan Bar & Restaurant in the leafy Bukit Ceylon district. Here you will enjoy a Malay set dinner (exclusive of drinks) in chic and contemporary Asian surroundings. Dishes at Bijan mix traditional recipes with modern innovations, a fusion of forgotten favourites and delicious new flavours and textures.
Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures with more than 130 languages, four main religions and three alphabets, and this diversity is evident even within each constituent demographic. As you’ll learn over the coming days, ethnic Chinese make up about a quarter of the country’s population – in Kuala Lumpur they account for more than 40% – but even they are extremely diverse. There are Hokkien, Cantonese, Peranakan… each making an invaluable contribution to Malaysian society, culture and commerce. At 09:30 hours, you will be immersed in KL’s vibrant Chinese scene with the start of Petaling Street Heritage Food Trail. For two-and-a-half hours, we will explore the beating heart of the capital’s Chinatown, trawling the morning market and the side alleys where food stall hawkers and small restaurants have been selling delicious street food for decades. The sights, sounds and scents of Chinatown will tickle your palate all morning long. During this walk, you will gain an understanding of the different types of food and the traditions related to them, and sample a selection of signature dishes, snacks and drinks. Once your appetite has been insatiably whetted, we’ll stop for a hawker’s lunch (exclusive of drinks) in the lower ground floor of Lot 10 Hutong food court. This foodie’s paradise is home to more than 30 eateries, many of which have been owned by the same families for generations. Each one offers a different dining experience, whether it is clay pot chicken rice, fried oysters, beef ball noodles, roast duck, Hokkien noodles, kong tai Singapore prawn mee, soong kee beef noodles or Hainan chicken rice – you will be spoiled for choice. After lunch, return to the hotel for a free afternoon, meeting again shortly before 19:00 hours to head off for dinner. This evening’s venue is Marini’s on 57, a modern restaurant serving traditional Italian dishes that are as spectacular as the views from the 57th floor at the top of PETRONAS Tower 3. This slice of Italian heaven in the Kuala Lumpur sky boasts the best front row views in town of the twin towers. Marini’s is the place to be and it has an unparalleled selection of pre-dinner cocktails and premium whiskeys to savour after feasting on your Italian set dinner (exclusive of drinks).
Today begins with a hands-on cooking experience that will have you licking your fingers in no time as we partake in a five-hour wok course in the jungle outside Kuala Lumpur. Depart at 07:30 hours for the LaZat Cooking School in the lush Penchala Hills, where the sound of roosters crowing and monkeys scampering in the rainforest is part of everyday life. Begin with a market tour to buy the fresh ingredients for the class and then continue to the school for a jaunt through the exotic herb garden, where vital ingredients in Malay cooking abound. Catch a scent of bird’s eye chili, turmeric plants, lemongrass, curry leaves and kaffir lime, and imagine how they would spice up a dish. Then it’s time to try your hand in the kitchen, using traditional stone and wooden utensils in the modern kitchen under the guidance of your expert instructor. After sweating it out in the kitchen, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labour. The afternoon is free. Meet shortly before 18:30 hours in the hotel to depart for the popular Noble Mansion restaurant to feast on an eight-course Chinese dinner (exclusive of drinks). Dishes at Noble Mansion tend to be a modern take on traditional recipes, a policy which is matched by the décor, where flowery upholstery, gilded ceilings and auspicious Chinese proverbs adorn shiny, black lacquered walls. Among the house specialities are liver sausage in char siew roll, giant scallops, fresh water prawns, ocean grouper and seafood wok, and steamed live Australian perch with chef’s special preserved radish.
You are what you eat and what better way to see how it applies to KL-ites than by getting to know them – and their food, of course – with a full day Kuala Lumpur lifestyle and culture trail. After a leisurely breakfast, depart from the hotel at 09:00 hours for an interactive experience, which will acquaint you with the capital, from the hidden gems to its most dazzling attractions. To enhance your enjoyment, you will be given a ‘passport’, which will act as an agenda and guide with maps and clues during the trail as you carry out the prescribed tasks and solve puzzles through 10 checkpoints in Kuala Lumpur. A certificate of completion will be presented with an exclusive printed T-shirt to mark the completion of the activity. (Please wear light clothing comfortable and walking shoes or sandals. Bringing a hat and drinking water is also advisable.)
So hop on the KL Light Railway Transit system and discover places like Kampung Baru (a Malay village) to sample traditional Malay cakes and also to take a selfie with the iconic Kuala Lumpur City Centre in the background. Hop off at Brickfields and find yourself immersed in the sights, sounds and scents of Little India, and head to Chow Kit to visit the largest wet market in Kuala Lumpur. Have fun tossing and flipping roti canai (Indian flatbread) until they become transparently thin, making them light and crispy when fried. Challenge yourself to ‘pull’ teh tarik, Malaysia’s national beverage, without dripping a single drop on the floor. And along the way there are plenty of opportunities to nibble on multicultural delicacies. From the fascinating experience of a local wet market to getting a beautiful henna tattoo, you will come away with a memorable Malaysian experience from the morning leg. Take a break for lunch at Bombay Palace, which has earned itself a reputation as the ‘culinary ambassador of India’. Here you can choose from a menu that features dishes from many of India’s regions, with trained chefs turning out a range of northern specialities that feature anything from 20 to 40 herbs and spices. The afternoon is free. Meet shortly before 19:00 hours in the hotel to depart for The Troika, an exclusive condominium, for dinner at Cantaloupe. Located on the 23rd floor, this modern French restaurant serves classic favourites, with the occasional Malay inspiration added by chef Christian Bauer. Dishes such foie gras satay, roast Wagyu sirloin and butter-poached lobster with fried beef tendon are made with the utmost intricacy and innovation, and are full of rich flavours. This select dining experience is enhanced by the stunning views of the Kuala Lumpur skyline, with the Twin Towers and KL Tower visible.
Enjoy the day at your own leisure in the multicultural metropolis that is Kuala Lumpur. This city of more than 1.6 million inhabitants is not even two centuries old but what it lacks in history is more than compensated by what it offers as a vision of the city of the future. The options (not included) are myriad: you can hop on the monorail and meander between the skyscrapers, alighting to explore districts such as Brickfields, popularly known as Little India, or must-see locations such as the art deco Central Market and the National Mosque, a magnificent example of 1960s religious architecture surrounded by lush landscaped gardens. Perhaps head to Jalan Alor, an area renowned for its savoury street food, or to the ‘Golden Triangle’, the capital’s shopping and entertainment hub. Almost on the doorstep of the hotel are the PETRONAS Twin Towers, which rise to a dizzying height of 452 metres above the city. The twin towers are linked by a double-decker sky bridge at 170 metres and there’s a viewing platform in the 86th storey, which is at 360 metres. The views, needless to say, are breathtaking. Nearby is the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, where the 421-metre-high Kuala Lumpur Tower is located. It has an observation deck and revolving restaurant, which allows for dramatic 360° view of the city's skyline while enjoying a meal. Perhaps you could head to the northern neighbourhood of Setapak Jaya for a tour of the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre. The company has been manufacturing the finest pewter products since 1885 and is today the largest of its kind in the world, making more than 70 items from aerators to wine glasses, with almost 90 different ranges featuring designs from classical to modern. Explore the dazzling exhibition chronicling the company’s growth and witness the production process first hand.
Meet at the lobby after breakfast for departure at 09:00 hours to the charming island of Penang, which is in the Andaman Sea. Enjoy a pleasant drive towards Malaysia’s north-western coast, crossing three states along the way. Pass through beautiful, pastoral countryside with palm oil and rubber plantations and the dramatic Cameron Highlands on the horizon to the right. Cross the Selatan Strait to Penang via the 13.5km-long Penang Bridge, an awe-inspiring feat of engineering, and continue to the north of the island, arriving at about 13:00 hours for check-in at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa, your accommodation for the next five nights. The afternoon is free for you to relax in the luxurious surroundings of the resort or venture out at your own leisure. Set in a stunning location, hemmed in by verdant woodlands and a 2km-long golden beach, Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa is a veritable Garden of Eden, with century-old trees rising above you and lush foliage dropping to the green, grassy ground. Lounge by the pool or sip a refreshing drink from the poolside bar, or go for a stroll on the strand and savour this moment of sheer bliss. Meet at the lobby for departure at 19:00 hours to head out to George Town and taste some of the local hawkers’ street food, which is renowned throughout Malaysia. Tuck into Penang’s tantalising national dish, char koay teow (fried flat rice noodles) or indulge in other mouth-watering local favourites such as the sizzling satay, fragrant chicken rice, fried oysters, laksa (rice noodles with spicy, sour broth) and prawn noodles.
Penang is considered the culinary capital of Malaysia and nowhere is the diversity of dishes and range of flavours more evident than in its beautiful capital, George Town. You don’t walk its streets – you devour them. Every corner you turn is a new gastronomic adventure, with hawkers selling delicious street food. The Indian food is heavily inspired by southern Indian Tamil cuisine while the Chinese food blends Cantonese recipes with the autochthonous Peranakan (also known as Nyonya) kitchen. Depart the resort at 09:00 hours for a four-hour heritage and traditional food trail, stopping en route to try popular breakfasts such as apom manis (Indian crepes made with coconut milk) and apam balik (Malaysian peanut pancakes) which are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It won’t be long before we visit a biscuit shop to check out the fare such as mee ko (pink-coloured tortoise-shaped buns) which were traditionally eaten on birthdays or festivals and are now eaten all the time, either plain, toasted or fried with eggs like French toast. By this stage, we’ll have munched our way right into central George Town, where we head to the Maliia Bakery, which since 1928 has been baking the best roti Benggali (Indian bread) in town. The crust is chewy but the crumb inside is pillow-soft .The bread can be dipped in coffee or spread with butter or coconut jam. We pick up the pace as we hop on trishaws to go and meet Uncle Lim, a local legend who for half a century has been making hand-made poh piah spring rolls.
Next on the menu, if you can find the space in your tummy, are the long and crispy dough fritters known as Chinese cruller, which are a popular breakfast. There’s time for one more foodie fixture before lunch, when we stop at Leong Chee Kee Biscuits. This family-run bakery in the backstreets of Chinatown is renowned for its coconut tarts, egg cakes and pepper biscuits. We now head to the leafy suburbs to enjoy lunch at a venue steeped in history. Suffolk House is a restaurant located in the immaculately restored Georgian mansion built by the founder of the British colony of Penang. Savour a Western set lunch in the charming old world surrounds decorated with period furniture redolent of the sophistication and elegance of colonial Malaya. After lunch, return to the hotel for a free afternoon, meeting again shortly before 19:00 hours to head off for dinner. This evening we have on the table a Peranakan set dinner (exclusive of drinks) at Kebaya Restaurant in the Seven Terraces boutique hotel, which is located in a row of beautifully renovated 19th century Anglo-Chinese townhouses. The menu is a blend of classic Indo and Straits Chinese dishes, prepared with innovative French cooking techniques that add new twists to local staples such fresh chillies, shallots, garlic, kaffir lime, turmeric and ginger.
Today we’re cooking up a storm at the amazing Tropical Spice Garden with a four-hour cookery class. Depart the hotel at 09:00 hours for this beautiful complex overlooking the Strait of Malacca. Before the lesson starts, there’s a guided tour of the spice terraces and a pit stop to relax over a steaming cup of herbal tea sweetened with stevia leaves. Then it’s off to the kitchen, where you will soon be engulfed in a cloud of fragrant aromas. Once everything has been prepared, you can savour the fruits of your labour at The Pavilion (exclusive of drinks). After lunch, return to the hotel for a free afternoon, meeting again shortly before 19:00 hours to head off for dinner (exclusive of drinks) at BTB & Restaurant. Located in ChinaHouse – a compound of three heritage houses linked by an open-air courtyard – it serves modern Western dishes influenced by Asian and Middle Eastern flavours.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the resort and relax for the rest of the morning as the day’s activities don’t begin until midday. Meet at the lobby to depart for a fascinating tour that focuses on George Town’s Peranakan heritage and a rather more modern and unusual addition to its cultural scene. Visit the magnificent Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, which stands defiantly as a symbol of Penang’s past while modern buildings go up around it. This impressive indigo-coloured villa was built by a Chinese merchant in the late 19th century and boasts awe-inspiring decoration – interior and exterior – which is the labour of master craftsmen brought in from China who used materials such as porcelain, cast iron, teak and clay tiles. After decades of gradual decline, it underwent a remarkable restoration in the late Nineties, which was so thorough that it won the inaugural Most Excellent UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation Award in 2000. Today, its 38 rooms, five courtyards, seven staircases and 220 windows offer a wonderfully atmospheric insight into the halcyon days of colonial George Town. Lunch (exclusive of drinks) will be at the mansion’s restaurant, which serves refined modern Cantonese cuisine.
After lunch, visit the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, which is just over a kilometre away. Its immaculately preserved jade-green façade immediately marks it out from the earthier state of its surroundings. This historic house museum preserves the Victorian ornamentation of the home of a prominent ethnic Chinese merchant from the late 19th century. The Peranakans are assimilated ethnic Chinese who have lived in Malaysia for centuries – in Penang they account for almost half of the population. This lavishly decorated mansion boasts more than 1,000 pieces of antiques and collectibles, and features an eclectic design, incorporating Chinese carved-wood panels, English ceramic floor tiles and Scottish cast iron balustrades, balconies and railings. Refreshments of Chinese tea and local Chinese cakes will be serve at the mansion. Back on the street, expect to happen upon evocative and eye-catching – and often three-dimensional – murals painted on walls and street furniture such as phone booths. It’s not graffiti but rather a ground-breaking and thought-provoking project, known as Mirrors of George Town, which was part of the 2012 George Town Festival. The murals, which depict humorous paintings of subjects such as children at play, toys, animals and other surreal images, are the handiwork of young Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic. After the rawness of the street art, we’re back to lavish luxury for a sensational evening dinner (exclusive of drinks) at the dazzling dining room in Macalister Mansion, a restored century-old colonial mansion. The eclectic décor of the mansion is sure to provide as much conversation as the excellent modern cuisine, made from the finest quality ingredients.
The last full day in Penang is free for you to enjoy all to yourself. You can while away the time relaxing by the stunning pool at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, swim in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea or explore Penang on your own. The island boasts a wealth of attractions from the natural majesty of Penang National Park to manmade marvels such as Kek Lok Si Temple – which blends Burmese, Thai and Chinese Buddhist architecture. Maybe you enjoy a fun and entertaining interlude at the Made in Penang Interactive Museum in George Town. This surreal gallery exhibits humorous and irreverent three-dimensional art as well as historical showcases of miniature dioramas depicting Penang’s history and its early settlements. Also worth a detour is St George’s Church, a pristine white Anglican place of worship that is perhaps one of the best examples of Palladian architecture to be found in south-east Asia. With its manicured front lawn, complete with gazebo, it’s a little piece of England in the heart of George Town. Altogether more rustic is the earthy Chew Jetty, a bustling waterfront area of ‘homes on stilts’, which form a water village dating back to the early Chinese immigrants. In contrast, the hard-hitting War Museum offers an insight into the darkest chapter of Penang’s recent history. One of George Town’s hidden gems is the Penang Hill railway, a funicular line, which plies a scenic 2km-long route from the suburb of Air Itam to Penang Hill. It lies at 823 metres above sea level and offers wonderful panoramic views of the capital, the Strait of Malacca and mainland Malaysia in the horizon. Lunch and dinner at own expense.
Savour one final breakfast at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa and enjoy the its facilities until it’s time to leave for the airport for your onward flight.