A few weeks ago, my officemates and I went for dinner in Mabuhay Laguna Restaurant, a Filipino restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was really happy that, finally, we found something we can recommend to non-Filipino friends here!
Looking for good Filipino restaurants abroad
When I first came here in Kuala Lumpur, I thought there was only Filipino restaurant in the whole city: The Narra. The Narra is popular among Filipino expats, and it’s the default hang-out venue every Friday and Saturday.
To be honest, I find the food in The Narra to be mediocre. Although it has 5-star reviews in Google from Filipinos — most of whom are nostalgic and craving for home food, I’d never personally met anyone who agrees the food is delicious. I suppose no one gives a low-rating because it may seem “unpatriotic” not to support a Filipino establishment abroad. For me though, the food here is “okay lang.” Anyway, you can argue that people come here to satisfy their cravings for sinigang and sisig regardless of quality or taste and perhaps to listen to live music too, with a familiar crowd and voices.
You might be wondering why this seems a big deal to me. When you’re living abroad as a minority, whether you are aware of it or not, you represent your home country. The Narra is the most popular Filipino restaurant in Kuala Lumpur and it basically represents Philippines cuisine to everyone else. Of course, I would hold high expectations of it.
Last time, my boss asked me to take him to a Filipino restaurant here in KL and I gave a noncommittal grunt because I didn’t want to take him there. I want to give a good impression of our food and that just won’t do — especially considering how varied and tasty Malaysian food is. If I were pressed, I would honestly just cook at home.
So anyway, several weeks ago I heard about Mabuhay Laguna. I read about it online and it seemed that it’s worth a try. My officemates and I went here on a dinner on a weekend.
(This is a bit impromptu and I didn’t bring my mirrorless camera, so I’m apologizing in advance for the quality of the photos.)
Mabuhay Laguna restaurant
Mabuhay Laguna restaurant can be found at the city center in Kuala Lumpur. The outdoor facade is unremarkable; it’s looks like an ordinary home eatery. Anyway, we weren’t here for the interior design but for good Filipino food.
There were only three of us in the group. We ordered sisig (a grilled dish made of pork bits, seasoned with chili and calamansi), beef kare-kare (stew with peanut sauce) and lechon kawali (crispy pork belly).
First, the sisig was better than expected. It didn’t seem to include the typical pork parts (i.e., chopped-up pig face), but it was delicious nonetheless. It was perfect paired with steamed rice
The same goes for kare-kare. It was hearty and there were lots of leafy vegetables, which made up for our lack of veggie side dishes. It brought me back to morning trips to Aani weekend market in Taguig City with my mother, where we’d buy organic produce and Filipino ulam such as this one. See that? It already reminded me of home.
For the lechon kawali… Well, you can’t really go wrong with this item. It’s pork boiled and deep fried. The lechon kawali comes with spicy vinegar dip.
We also ordered gulaman (a refreshing drink with dark jellies) and halo-halo (iced dessert with various ingredients such as fruits, beans, pearls and ice cream). The halo-halo for me was good, although it got too sweet for my taste when the ice cream melted. Perhaps next time I’ll request less sugar or eat the ice cream before mixing it with the shaved ice.
Overall, we had a great dinner. We weren’t able to taste-test other items in the menu because we were a small party, but based on the limited items we sampled, I can tell that the food here is good.
I finally have something to recommend to people who wants to try traditional Filipino dishes in Kuala Lumpur.
About Mabuhay Laguna
Mabuhay Laguna Restaurant serves traditional Filipino fare. There are silog meals (fried rice, egg and another dish of your choice) good for 1 person or main dishes good for 2-3 persons. They also serve alcoholic drinks such as Red Horse.
It is just walking distance from Masjid Jamek station. It has another branch in Petaling Jaya.
Address: 3, Jalan Gereja, City Centre, 55000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
- Monday: 9AM – 2:30PM
- Tuesday to Sunday: 9AM – 10PM
Suggested budget per person: RM15-20
You can visit them via their Facebook page here.
P.S. Here are other Filipino restaurants you can find in Kuala Lumpur.
Have you been to Mabuhay Laguna restaurant? How was your experience?
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Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).