Eating, food and steamboat in Cameron Highlands

“Makan!” that’s what the local says when going for a meal. Looking for a meal in Cameron Highlands is simply easy. With so many available choices, you can never savor them all at once.

Good food, it is a celebration of life! Our penchant for eating and trying out new cuisine give rise to the many varieties of style and ethnicity.

Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western, take your pick! We have the ever popular steamboat, nasi lemak, roti chanai, satay… Uh, if you are not from around here, you’ll be asking, what kind of food are these?

Let’s see if I can explain. Of course pictures are worth a thousand words, but can never replace the culinary experience of trying it out first hand!

Chinese and Malay Steamboat

Let’s start with steamboat; this is not your riverboat variety, rather it is a pot of boiling soup heated constantly by gas stove fire, or for a rare one of kind, heated by charcoal fire. Uncooked chicken, fish, prawn, various kinds of meatballs, fish balls, crabsticks, variety of vegetables, tofu, noodles, beehun and eggs are served on plates to the patron.

The patron will then proceed with putting some portion of the above into the boiling cauldron of soup till it is full. If there is a cover for the pot, use it, as it will cook the dishes faster.

For the uninitiated, here’s a rough guide: normally, the meat dishes goes into the pot first as they take longer to cook.

Prawns cook real fast so a quick dip till it turns red and it can be taken out to eat. Tofus thrown in tend to break to pieces while rummaging for grub, this is normal, just eat the pieces whenever you scoop it out.

Visiting Cameron Highlands will not be complete without having a steamboat meal here

Known also as Hot Pot, this is one of the local favorites as well as a must-try for visitors. After a long day out and about the tourist attractions and it starts to get chilly, nothing beats having a steamboat where you can enjoy some very nice and hot boiling broth. The standard would be chicken soup boil to perfection and you dip in some fresh vegetables and meats as well as seafood. There are a lot of steamboat restaurants around Cameron Highlands serving different types of hotpot.

  • Types of soup base: Some come with 2-soup pots like tomyam and herbal soup while some are more unique like Mala broth, pot-fiery chili broth and pork bone broth.
  • Types of fire: Most restaurants use gas cylinders as they are most convenient. For better taste and aroma, look for those with charcoal fire which keeps the pot boiling slowly while maintaining the flavors longer.
  • Ingredients: Steamboat comes standard with meat, vegetables and seafood. Meats will be chicken, beef, lamb and pork (non-halal). Vegetables are freshest here as they are grown on the farms. Seafood can be fresh (transported here) like prawns, fish and others or frozen (fishballs, meatballs, etc).
  • Sauce: Used for dipping. You will get a few types of chili sauce as standard but some restaurants would offer other types like ginger oil, soy sauce, sesame paste, satay peanut sauce and many others.

Do take note that if you are looking for a peaceful meal by a steamboat, it might be difficult because these outlets are usually quite noisy. In fact, they are mostly crowded as dusk sets in because of their popularity. If you know of any place you would like to have your dinner, be sure to make a reservation or make a booking online so that you can reserve a place. Another issue here is parking. As many popular steamboat restaurants operate in the commercial areas of Brinchang and Tanah Rata, it could be challenging to find a spot so you might need to circle around.

The Charcoal Steamboat in Strawberry Park Hotel is a great place to go if you want to try this traditionally-prepared meal. You will notice its short funnel channeling out of the hot and tasty soup pot. Ingredients are quite standard here with tofu, meatballs, prawns, crab sticks and fish balls but the outdoor dining experience can be quite pleasing during the evenings.

Along Brinchang Point, you could come toward the Fauzi Tomyam and Steamboat Restaurant, a popular halal steamboat place. This is an affordable and value-for-money restaurant that serves great steamboat and cooked dishes. Tomyam is one of the most ordered dishes here. Another halal steamboat restaurant that you can consider is at DeBamboo Tower Steamboat, Grill and Steam Restaurant where you get a multi-level cooking experience. Here, the price is only about RM30 per person and you get to pick and choose more than 100 items to cook and eat. Meanwhile, the Glory 78 Steamboat and Snack Corner is another halal steamboat eatery from only RM23 per pax. You can choose to enjoy a steamboat meal here or go for their cooked dishes. Try out their Chicken Chop which is prepared with their own homemade recipe.

What to look out for?

  • Price: Most steamboat restaurants are affordable and economical. Prices usually average around RM20-RM30 per person (depending on what you order)
  • Halal: Both halal and non-halal steamboat restaurants can be found anywhere.
  • Taste: Very good and comes with different styles of soup bases. They also have Mala soup which is good for spicy-food lovers.
  • Freshness: Vegetables and meat are very fresh. Seafood like prawns and fish need to be transported here. Frozen food is most common.

Two types of Steamboat Pots

Oh, the restaurant should pass out two types of ladle, one with holes in it and one without. The ladle with holes is to scoop out the grub without scooping out the soup thereby flooding your tiny bowl with soup. Soup is to be savored midway or later as it would be most tasty after boiling countless meat and vegetables.

Vegetables are usually thrown in sometimes halfway through your meal but there is no fix rule, you can throw them in anytime you feel like it.

Noodles, beehun and eggs are usually the last to go in. Noodles and beehun get cooked really fast, all it needs is just a dip for a minute and you are good to go. Scoop some soup to your bowl of noodles or beehun to complete the dish.

For variety, some restaurant serves what they call “Ying Yong” steamboat, where there is a partition in the pot separating it into two halves. The reason for that is to have two different kinds of soup to make your steamboat experience more interesting. Depending on the restaurant, there is a choice of usual plain soup, herbal soup, or for those who like a kick, the spicy tom yam soup!

Varieties of Soup Base

Wait a minute! I listed three types of soup, and there is only two halves! Yeah, you can only choose any two out of three choices.

One popular steamboat is the charcoal steamboat. It is only available in Highland Restaurant located at Brinchang.

The charcoal gives it an interesting smoked aroma to the dish. Only one choice of soup though. If you got the chance, try it soon.

Heard the owners are planning to retire from the restaurant business. No one else is using the charcoal for steamboat. I guess it is troublesome to use charcoal for steamboat.

Indian Cuisine

For Indian cuisine, there is the ever popular Banana Leaf Rice consisting of plain white rice with a mix of vegetables variety and papadams placed on banana leaf standing in as a plate, hence the name.

A variety of meat dishes can be chosen to complete the meal. Choices include chicken, mutton, beef, fish cooked in various styles of curry or deep fried with spices added.

If you happen to come a across a kiln in an Indian restaurant, those are for making tandori chicken and naan. And not to forget the ever popular Indian bread known as roti chanai that goes very well with a cup of pulled tea what we call it as teh tarik.

For good value Southern Indian food, try the Restaurant No. 14 in Tanah Rata.

Malay and Halal Food

There are many variety of Malay food that can be found in Cameron Highlands. Hop over to the food stalls opposite the main row of shops in Jalan Besar. They are usually inexpensive. Some of the more popular Malay food includes the Nasi Lemak, and Satay.

Nasi Lemak translated literally means oily rice! Actually it is not oil but rather santan – derived from coconut milk – which gives the nice aroma fragrance to the rice.

Nasi Lemak is sometimes packed in a pyramid shaped packing using banana leaf and oilskin paper. The rice is sprinkled with fried peanuts, “ikan bilis” (anchovies), cucumbers, and completed with curry and sambal gravy.

Depending on the shop, some meat like chicken or “sotong” (squid) may be added to make a complete simple meal.

Of course there are much more varieties of food that I have not mentioned. So roam around the towns of Cameron Highlands, you just might find something intriguing!

How to choose the best Restaurants

Where there be good food you can be assured there will be a crowd. That’s how we spot a good outlet from a poor one.

Given the penchant that we all like to eat, you would not find a shortage of restaurants and eateries in Cameron Highlands. With so many of them, which one should we make a bee line to whet our appetites? Some restaurants that are good is worth revisiting while some would be wiser to re-consider when there are no other alternatives to consider.

It is good to have many choices since eating the same food day in day out would just make you sick and tired of the same food even if it was really tasty.

I have quite the same dilemma around my office since the choice available was rather limited. It was more a case of eating to live than living to eat. In the highlands on the other hand you could find many good ones and not so good ones around.

The listing here is by no means complete but based on what I had tried and also by recommendations by others.

Some were excellent while some were mediocre and yet there were some you should very give it a wide berth as though it was the plague. I will not mention the bad ones unless I truly dislike it lest the owners come after me with a hatchet and bar me entry to the highlands.

The list here is by no means exhaustive and inclusions will be added if I ever do try out the eateries or perhaps through recommendations or suggestions by readers like your good self.

So here goes in no particular order:

Tanah Rata

    • Restaurant No. 14
    • The Malay stalls along Tanah Rata main road
    • Schwabing Haus Inn – German style foods
    • Uncle Chow Kopitiam – Home cooked Nyonya foods
      Second review of Uncle Chow’s Kopitiam Restaurant
    • Starbucks Coffee Shops in Cameron Highlands
    • Marrybrown Restaurant
    • Jasmine Cafe House Restaurant


    • Silvertar Restaurant
    • Highland Restaurant and its charcoal steamboat
    • You Hoo Restaurant
    • OK Tuck Restaurant
    • Strawberry Moment Dessert Cafe
    • Organic Charcoal Steamboat meals – Ho Organic Farm Restaurant and Cameron Organic Produce Restaurant
    • Oldies and Goodies Roasted Restaurant
    • Kentucky Fried Chicken aka KFC

Here and there

  • Smokehouse hotel and restaurant
  • Charcoal Steamboat in Strawberry Park Resort Hotel
  • YTL Cameron Highlands Resort – main restaurant + Gonbei Japanese Restaurant
  • The Strawberry View Restaurant at Kea Farm
  • Green View Garden Cafe

Oh, yea, there are franchise outlets like Merry Brown, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), and even StarBucks! If you can’t think of anything else to eat or lepak you can go for these…

Best Fast Food

You can find quite a few options if you are want something more straightforward like fast food. While it is always advised to try their local food and shops here, there could be times when you might just want a quick meal without having to think too much.

    • KFC Restaurant Cameron Highlands – The KFC Restaurant can be easily spotted as you enter the main town area of Brinchang. As there are not many fast-food restaurants around Cameron Highlands, you can expect this place to be crowded all the time as tourists and visitors like it for convenience. However, do take note that you might have to compromise on the freshness of food here which could be better.
    • Marrybrown Restaurant Cameron Highlands – Another fast food option that you can consider is at Marrybrown. You can find the outlet in Tanah Rata. This homegrown brand is quite a popular eatery here and like KFC, it is always packed and crowded with customers. The same issue might arise with regards to the freshness of the food here. However, it is often said that the locals prefer Marrybrown more because of its ‘local flavor’. Besides the usual fried chicken and burgers, they have some local dishes on their menu too.

Best Tea and Scones for Breakfast or Tea Time

Love it or hate it, well that’s what I found at some of the forums and travel destinations web sites.

Personally, I like scones. And it certainly goes well with tea. And my wife likes it so much she actually pack back some from the various establishment to bring back for her friends and family to try it out!

But it is not quite the same having tea and scones back in Kuala Lumpur without the English Tudor style settings and country home feeling. I still enjoy it more when I am at Cameron Highlands.

Scones are typically English. And is traditionally served during the afternoon when the English are having their afternoon tea break. Times have change and you can now have it anytime of the day.

And of course Cameron Highlands was set up by the British, there is definitely lots of English flavour in this highland and this tea and scone afternoon tea break regiment was brought in by the English and remains as one of their legacy to Cameron Highlands.

If you miss the balmy weather of England and feeling homesick for good old British Isle, Cameron Highlands became close substitute for those longing for a bit of their homeland. Enough of my banter and let’s see where we can find the best tea and scone eateries in this travel destination.

I have not tried all the tea and scones with the list I compiled here, still you can get a fair idea where to head for having your typical English tea and scones top up with Devonshire cream if you must.

Here goes in no particular order:

      1. Cameron Highlands Resort (YTL)
      2. The Lakehouse Cameron Highlands Hotel
      3. The Smokehouse Hotel and Restaurant
      4. J TEA CAFE in Brinchang
      5. Bala’s Holiday Chalet
      6. Cameron Valley
      7. Cameronian Inn Tea and Homemade Scones [Recommended!]
      8. Cluny Lodge (not for public unfortunately, private booking only)
      9. Boh Tea Shop at the tea plantation

I’m sure there are many more hidden around Cameron Highlands, but it is not quite possible to go on a tea and scones eating spree!

Personally, I like the scones served at The Lakehouse Hotel and The Smokehouse Hotel. Their scones are really soft and fluffy but of course there is a price to pay for eating at such luxurious setting. For lower cost alternative you could try J TEA CAFE which comes quite highly recommended.

Best Dessert and Light Snacks 

When it comes to dessert, Cameron Highlands would have much to offer. You cannot find a better place than here with its cooling weather to just sit around, enjoy the weather and have a cake with some freshly-brewed highland tea. Between the towns, you will find the most cafes and places for dessert in Tanah Rata. It is very common that you will find strawberry-related items on their menu as they are freshly grown here. Remember to check out their strawberry pancakes, strawberry ice-creams and their amazing scones.

Best Place for Coffee & Cakes

The Roselane Coffee House is a great place to start. You can choose between the wide selection of Western cuisine or go for their local snacks. This is a place known for their lamb chop but their pancakes are one of the best here. Ask any local and they will agree. If you like scones, The Roselane Coffee House is the place to go and they go perfectly with English Tea. Don’t forget their apple pies too.

My Cake Home – If you like cakes, then My Cake House (Tanah Rata) would be perfect. Here, you get a comfortable place to enjoy a hot cup of tea while savoring some of the best cakes around. Their Cheese Lemon Cake is their signature which is a local favorite.

Warong Kek Cameron Cakehouse – This outlet is in Brinchang and the brightly-lit signboards welcome you to a place for something light but marvelous. When you enter the shop, you will notice a wide range of cakes available which tempts you to try all. But if you really must choose, pick the cheesecake. They also make customized cakes for birthdays and other events.

Warongs & Corners for light meals

While cafes are common places to go for pastries and snacks, Cameron Highlands has stalls and corners that house simple setups where you can enjoy a light meal. Check out the Uncle Chow Kopitiam in Tanah Rata. Here, you can get a simple meal of toast and tea (or coffee) at affordable prices. The tungsten lighting here makes it very homely and comfortable. Uncle Chow Kopitiam serves some of the best-homecooked foods around. Browse through their menu and you might like to try out their Nyonya items or their curry laksa, assam laksa or prawn mee.

What to look out for?

  • Price: Mostly economical and value-for-money.
  • Halal: Mostly halal and pork-free. However, Muslims should check with the owner to be absolutely sure.
  • Taste: Very good especially scones and cakes as they use fresh ingredients.
  • Freshness: Very fresh when it comes to desserts involving strawberries.

And for those who want to make their own scones, I’ve managed to get a scones recipe which you can download it. After you have perfected your baking skills, don’t forget to invite me to savour your perfectly baked scones, ok?

As for me? I don’t know much about cooking and baking.

But I do know how to make some pancakes using instant pancake mix. Even my wife says I’m quite good at frying up a pile and doing it better than she can!

A tip for best scones, they have to be soft and light, and if the establishment didn’t get their technique right, badly made scones are heavy, dense and tough.

That’s why the scones that I buy off the rack from supermarkets are hard and rough, very much pale in comparison with good scones found in Cameron Highlands.

If you check out the scones recipe, you can find the technique for making those deliciously soft and light scones. So head on over to the scones recipe download page and get your scones recipe today!

Best Western Food

Cameron Highlands, to some extend, is very ‘European’. The English architecture and buildings here gives you the feeling of the chilly and cooling homes in England while you sip a cup of tea. Being one of the top tourist destinations in Malaysia, a lot of foreign visitors come here. As such, you can find a lot of western food around the main towns. In fact, shops that sell local food might have a few western dishes on their menu as well. If you like your steaks, lamb chops, Fish and Chips, mash potatoes or salad, there are a lot of options to go with.

The Smokehouse Hotel is one of the popular places that serve authentic western cuisine although it is pricier than many other places. This is reflected by the quality of food and presentation served for the customers. Another place that you can consider is the Afiq Roy Café in Golden Hills, Tanah Rata. This restaurant is located in Barrington Cafe where it serves authentic Western dishes. A must-try here is their black pepper steak or their Chicken chop. Besides that, they have also known to serve some very delicious juices (fresh fruit and vegetables).

What to look out for?

  • Price: Normally slightly more expensive than local dishes. This is more so when you dine at hotels and resorts.
  • Halal: Mostly halal when operated by Muslim owners. There are non-halal outlets that serve pork chops though.
  • Taste: Unique among every restaurant. Most of them will state that they have their own homemade recipes.
  • Freshness: Mostly cooked from a frozen state before serving. Vegetables and fruits are very fresh.