If you want to get a proper taste of Malaysian cuisine, head to Kuala Lumpur Cafe.
Hirman Sugiman was born in the small town of Tapah in Malaysia, and it was here that he first discovered his passion for cooking. His mother was famous locally for her Rendang Curry, so while his siblings went off to boarding school, he stayed home and learned how to cook. Turmeric, lemongrass, chilli – he fell in love with the flavours of Malaysian cuisine, and now, years later, he’s bringing them to Leeds with business partner Bart Kuc. Together, they’ve opened the city’s first 100% Malaysian restaurant.
Kuala Lumpur Cafe is a laid-back, casual eatery in the heart of Headingley. Inside, they’ve combined eclectic seating and a welcoming atmosphere with pictures of Malaysia and traditional Batik textiles. It’s simply done as the main focus here really is on the food. They’ve teamed up with Head Chef Fendi to put together a tempting menu – before this, he ran his own restaurant in Shah Alam in Malaysia for 13 years, so you’re in good hands.
The menu is designed to show off the unique heritage of Malaysian food, which takes it cue from Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine. “The food is unique as it comprises of the flavours from each of those groups. There’s a bit of spice and curry influences from the Indian community, herbal influences from the Chinese and the sourness or sweetness from the Malays. So, if you like Indian, Thai and Chinese food, Malaysian food just blends all of those flavours together,” Bart told us.
You can start with familiar dishes like Vegetable Spring Rolls and Chicken Satay or try something new – the Roti Canai promises paratha bread served with curry sauce, while the Karipap offers traditional dumplings stuffed with potatoes and chicken. And for your main? Nasi Lemak is Malaysia’s national dish and it’s a speciality at Kuala Lumpur Cafe. Expect a heaving bowl of coconut rice with traditional Malay chilli sauce, peanuts, anchovies, boiled eggs and cucumber.
When it comes to their curries, Bart has a couple of recommendations. “Rendang is a very thick, aromatic curry, which is traditionally served during festivities in Malaysia and is bursting with flavour. Lemon grass, coconut shavings, chillies and coconut milk simmered slowly until a thick consistency is reached give this dish a very aromatic and tingly yet delicious taste,” he explained. “Masak Kicap is another of our simmered curries but this time it has the herbal influence of cinnamon bark, star anise, cardamom seeds, coconut shavings and a bit of dark soy.”
To go alongside your meal, you can get all your usual soft drinks as well as a host of homemade Malaysian tipples – Sirap Bandung brings together rose syrup with evaporated milk, while The Aris couples cold sweet tea with milk. And since they don’t have a license, they’ve introduced a bring your own booze policy.
As the city’s first 100% Malaysian restaurant, Kuala Lumpur Cafe offers the chance to try something new, so why not give it a whirl?
Kuala Lumpur Cafe, 2-4 Bennett Road, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 3HN.