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If you’re looking to escape the tourist-centric Langkawi, head to Kedah State’s capital Alor Setar. With barely any visitors, however, it can be challenging to find the city’s best eats. Culture Trip explores the best restaurants in Alor Setar for local-style dining, lunch in a pre-war shophouse and where to taste family recipes unchanged in decades.
Kedah’s capital Alor Setar has an impressive square, colourful houses lining the streets and a refreshing lack of tourists. Discover our favourite restaurants in Alor Setar for cheap street food and classy dining to regional delicacies, Thai food and eating inside a traditional shophouse.
According to locals, Restoran Cairo is the best restaurant in Alor Setar for Arabic food. Apart from offering a wide selection of Middle Eastern favourites, it’s a prime spot for local families. A variety of imported spices infuse the rice giving both aroma and fragrant tastes. Expect hearty portions (so come hungry) at mid-range prices. Try the nasi mandy ayam (Arabic-style rice with chicken) and nasi mandy kambing (Arabic-style rice with mutton).
Hai Kee Kedai Kopi in Chinatown combines the chance to taste Hainanese cuisine inside a converted shophouse. Chefs use an antique charcoal stove to prepare dishes using recipes passed down generations. Step inside and walk over the creaky wooden floorboards and up the rickety staircase to an air-conditioned dining area. Apart from being among the oldest restaurants in Alor Setar, it’s our favourite spot to see inside this historic building.
For the chance to taste traditional kampong food, head to Restoran Top Alor Setar. Local cooks create Malay favourites including nasi goreng (fried rice) and ikan bakar (barbecued fish). Travellers can taste Kedah specialities from family recipes at budget prices. The restaurant lies a couple of kilometres southeast of the centre (take Grab Car or a taxi).
If you’re on Jalan Langgar, Restoran Mee Derga with its gigantic red sign above the entrance is easy to find. Order from the vendor stall at the front of the shop and take a seat on one of the foldable tables. Expect rock-bottom prices and a flavoursome plate of Alor Setar’s best noodles. Come and dine with the locals and get mee goreng (spicy fried noodles) or mee rebus (boiled noodles with gravy). Pro tip: This is a budget-friendly place to sit with an iced coffee.
Restaurant RT consistently rates as one of the top Chinese restaurants in Alor Setar. The menu includes a range of dishes from seafood and lamb to Siam fried rice (Thai fried rice) and vegetable soups. If you’re unsure, ask the waiters or restaurant owner to suggest a few dishes. Apart from a diverse menu, the classy air-conditioned interior provides a comfortable spot to dine in style. Expect a meal for two to cost approximately RM80 ($19.60 USD). This is a favourite spot with couples.
The Chinatown Food Court sits near the Big Clock Tower. Set inside a small complex, vendors cook up a variety of local dishes. Just like any other food court in Malaysia, customers walk around and order directly from the stall. Expect to find a range of Malaysian favourites including satay (Malaysian skewered kebabs) as well as fried rice and noodle dishes. If you want to try fried kuay teow (fried flat noodles), check out Madam Gan’s Stall. A filling meal for one usually costs less than RM10 ($2.50 USD).
The Chinese-style Anggerik Seafood Garden provides a classier dining experience with nightly entertainment. With a selection of both Halal and non-Halal food, it caters to all dietary needs. The mouth-watering dishes such as their signature sweet and sour pork justify their high prices. Big screens show the live football games on weekends, while an open karaoke set entertains customers on other nights. This is one of the best restaurants in Alor Setar for groups looking to have a more active dining experience. Alcohol is available.
Salam Nasi Kandar Alor Setar provides budget Indian-style dining just a stone’s throw from Zahir Mosque. Walk up to the nasi kandar buffet-style stall and point to the food you want. Sides include succulent pieces of fried chicken thigh, various types of curry and stir-fried vegetables (remember to ask for a poppadom). Or choose one of the fried rice or nasi lemak meals from the set menu. A filling plate of food and a drink costs between RM10 and RM20 ($2.50 and $4.90 USD) per person. This is an ideal spot for backpackers.
If you want to try a Malaysian and Singaporean delicacy, visit Chia Bee. The signature bak kut teh is a type of soup broth made using pork bones and a plethora of herbs and spices. After opening in 1981, this has quickly grown into one of the top go-to restaurants in Alor Setar. The family-run business serves hungry locals this non-Halal dish with small cups of Chinese tea. If you go as a group, order the fried fish with black sauce and clams to share, too.