I feel like talking about night markets (also called pasar malam) is similar to going to the heart of the Malaysian culture. In its essence, pasar malams are street markets that operate from mid-afternoon ’til night, and here you can find local delicacies and products made by local businesses as well as artisans. There are several night markets in Kuala Lumpur, which open on different days so you can fit it in your itinerary.
What are pasar malams (and why you should visit one)
Pasar malams are often located in residential neighborhoods. It’s found in Malaysia, Indonesia and other Asian countries.
You’ll find numerous stalls selling local food – nasi goreng, char kway teow and other noodles, and so on – as well as other specialties. There’s always something new in every visit. You can also find Western, Thai, Indonesian, Korean and Japanese fare.
Aside from food, you can also go here to shop for cheap gadgets, clothes and other common household items.
Some pasar malams focus on serving as wet or fresh markets, as well as whole-good sale.
So, why is visiting a pasar malam in Kuala Lumpur a must-do? Basically, if you want to go local or if you want to taste a little bit of everything Malaysian, go to a pasar malam. It’s a pure authentic experience that will give you a glimpse of what Malaysia is about.
Pasar malams are currently out of the tourist radar, and most guides in Kuala Lumpur rarely post about it. This makes it more authentic, particularly in comparison with other attractions in Kuala Lumpur such as the Chinatown in Sri Petaling and (ironically) the most famous pasar malam that is Jalan Alor Night Market in Bukit Bintang. To be fair, Jalan Alor is okay in general, but it’s expensive and it caters mainly to tourists. It’s also very different to other pasar malams I’ve mentioned in this article.
Why I personally love pasar malams
So before we go on to the list of the best night markets in Kuala Lumpur, I’d like to explain why I love them and hence I was so excited to write this one up.
One reason is that it makes me feel integrated with the locals. The residents go here to food trip and do a little bit of shopping. You’ll rarely find foreign tourists while strolling around. It’s funny because this very authenticity is the same reason that some tourism organizations are reluctant to promote pasar malams to the international crowd (Related Read: Pasar malams as tourism gold mines).
The other reason is a bit more personal. I’ve been living in Kuala Lumpur for about half a year, and at this point the initial euphoria of first moving here has died down. I changed to your usual everyday employee. One weekend, my friend Hermes toured me around Bandaraya in KL and we found Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman pasar malam. I was suddenly reminded why I was happy here – the quirkiness and authenticity of the city, the distinct flavors of the cuisine, the elation of discovering all of these. If I can, I’ll explore the rest of the pasar malams in Kuala Lumpur.
(On a side note, we also have night markets in the Philippines but I find them very commercial, catered to middle-income residents. Some of the food also lacks roots and are instead served for Instagram.)
What dishes I recommend for you to try
There’s tons of authentic local food in pasar malams, and if it’s your first time there or if you only have a day to visit, it can be overwhelming! So I’ll recommend what my favorites are.
First of all, check out my favorite foods in Malaysia so you’ll get an idea about some of the great foods here.
So my favorites are: salted-egg stuff (chicken, squid, fish skin) which are sold by Ultraman or similar stalls, char kway teow (a type of fried noodles), scallop omelette, chicken or beef satay and other similar skewered meats like Thai pork, salted herbed chicken (smells so delicious too) and sticky brown rice with chicken which comes in aluminum-covered bowls. For dessert, there’s bird’s nest and taufufa (soya with your choice of liquid sugar). For drinks, I always go for juice with longan. I also make sure to buy fresh fruits like jackfruit, watermelon and such.
So that’s that. Without further ado, here are 3 of the best pasar malams in Kuala Lumpur.
3 of the Best Night Markets in Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman night market
Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman is my introduction to pasar malams. It is open on a weekend, and as it is located in the city center, it’s a go-to shopping location for locals and foodies.
Here you can find the usual Malaysian food staples such as noodles, along with streetfood (pancakes, otak-otak, various types of meats on skewers) and different types of native delicacies or cakes. There are stalls for fresh fruit and juices, as well as special food items like durian ice cream.
What I like most about our visit in Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman pasar malam is that the food is cheap and you can buy per piece, in contrast to Jalan Alor where, for example, chicken satays are 10 pieces per order.
Location: Bandaraya, walking distance from Bandaraya train station.
Tip: If you haven’t had enough, head on to RSMY restaurant nearby, which offers the best cheese naan in Kuala Lumpur.
Taman Connaught night market
Taman Connaught is a sought-after night market in Kuala Lumpur. It’s the longest pasar malam in the city, spanning 2km with over a hundred stalls.
Taman Connaught has your typical pasar malam offerings, with the addition of trendy food items: coconut ice cream, juice served with an inflatable holder, cakes and egg tarts and so on. Of course, there are also dishes originating from other Southeast Asian countries.
My favorite food here are salted-egg-coated meats. There’s fish skin, chicken, squid and so on. You can buy one order or a combination of each. It’s cheap (RM10 onwards), although the fish skin is not as good as that of Irvins’. I also bought bird’s nest (a Chinese dessert with various ingredients), pork barbecue and steamed dumplings.
Location: Cheras. Unfortunately, it’s not walking distance to a train station, so what you can do is take the train to Cheras or BTS station and then get a taxi or Grab from there.
OUG night market
OUG is pretty much similar to Taman Connaught, though personally I like this one better because it’s close to home (about 5 min by car and about 20-30 min when I’m in the mood to walk) and the crowd is noticeably smaller. The atmosphere is more relaxed and it’s easy to walk around without bumping against too many people.
Here we’ve tried (and approved of) sushi, chicken and beef satay, as well as salted-egg squid and fish skin (of course, of course). We also tried sea coconut, which tastes much like a regular coconut but with a sweetness that is difficult to describe.
Oh, and here I found the cheapest elephant pants and other similar cloths at RM15 each.
Location: Taman OUG. Again, it’s not close to any train station. Get on the train to Awan Besar station and take a 5-minute ride via Grab or taxi.
Visit a pasar malam in Kuala Lumpur
A pasar malam opens usually once a week, from 3PM onwards. There’s actually a pasar malam for most days of the week.
Here are the schedules of night markets in Kuala Lumpur:
- Monday – Taman Len Sen night market
- Tuesday – Sri Petaling night market, Taman Melawati night market
- Wednesday – Taman Connaught night market (Cheras), Taman Maluri night market
- Thursday – OUG night market, Taman Melawati night market
- Saturday – Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman night market, Happy Garden night market, TDDI Ahad night market, Taman Melawati night market
- Sunday – Taman Maluri night market
I’ll probably post more about pasar malams in the future.
Have you been to a pasar malam in Kuala Lumpur? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below! 🙂
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