Thursday, April 12, 2007

Grocery Experience in Malaysia

As of date, I am quite happy to have received comments and emails from people who have found my blog helpful. It seems Malaysia is attracting expats by the numbers, and quickly becoming like its neighboring country: Singapore.

I have always enjoyed doing grocery shopping, even back in Manila when I was still single. Unimart had the widest variety and good prices. I felt comfortable doing my grocery shopping at a place where I can park right outside, have someone push my cartful of groceries and put it backside my CRV. Well, those were the days when I was in Manila.

In Singapore, I continued on with my favorite past-time. But it wasn't as "smooth" as Manila. No car. No one to bring groceries to the car. No one to bring groceries into the house. Simply, you buy the groceries hoping that you have enough arms & hands to carry it to the taxi queue. And after getting of the cab, you will need to carry all of that to the elevator. Then into the condo. The whole grocery exercise = physical exercise.

One thing to note though is the variety of things you can find in Singapore. Whether it's Carrefour or Cold Storage, they carried a lot of imported stuff which will suit almost every expat. Which made the whole grocery thing enjoyable (yet pricey!).

Well, Malaysia is a totally different story -- with upside and downside. Let me elaborate:

- the good thing is cars are more affordable than Singapore, so you can actually put groceries in your trunk and drive home (just like the good old days in Manila, minus the push cart service)
- there is a wide variety of grocery stores to choose from: Carrefour, Cold Storage, Tesco, and other smaller (independent) groceries
- prices are cheaper than Singapore, which means more stuff out of your Ringgit
- groceries will actually put the stuff you buy into the plastic bags (some Singapore groceries will leave you to do you own stuffing-into-bags)
- availability of push carts up to your car, without having to deposit coins into the slot (unlike in Singapore, if you want your coin back, better push it back to the proper area)

- after months of living here, I still couldn't figure out where to buy Arborio Rice (to make risotto). I practically went to all the "expat" places already and cannot find any. When I went to Mr. Ho (specialty shop in Bangsar), I was the lucky customer who heard the phrase "we ran out". Oh well, anyone who knows where I can buy Arborio Rice, please point me to the direction.
- variety is not like Singapore. In short Carrefour Malaysia does not mean same stuff I used to find in Carrefour Singapore. Hubby couldn't find the frozen pastry than you can make into pies. No Arborio Rice. No Pokka Apple Juice.

As you can see, the upside will outweight downside -- which is why I am happy to call Malaysia our home =) So to those moving to KL, I am sure grocery shopping will be one of the upside things in your list, especially those moving from Europe! (sigh, talk about my grocery experience in France: lots of great stuff to buy but expensive when I convert to Asian currency + you have to bag your own things).


One of the first things I asked to my local friends was 'where to buy groceries'. I wanted to learn immediately where is the cheapest place, best deal for this and that, where to go and what to expect. Now, let me share my own personal account of grocery shopping in KL.

To buy basic needs like washing machine soap, fabric conditioner, floor cleaner, liquid dish soap cleaner, bath soap, shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper (and other generic stuff which has brand and consistency in quality) ... you can buy all this at TESCO. That place has the cheapest price (in my investigation!). Parking is free. Lots of people on weekends, so I do my grocery on weekdays. For stuff like Coke-in-cans, cooking oil, baby powder, toothbrush ... you can get it at best price here. It's great to have Tesco near my house (Tesco Mutiara Damansara). Tesco can be a good bargain, but of course it doesn't house the great, great stuff which some expats will be looking for ...

Great stuff like very good meat, very fresh & top quality vegetables, variety of imported olive oil & different type of soy sauce, freshly baked high-quality bread, exotic choices of pasta in different forms & sizes along with imported pasta sauces. Should you be looking for things like that, it is better to go to Cold Storage (many different branches) or Citi Super (in Sri Hartamas Shopping Center). You will find an especially extended variety of imported biscuits and other things in Cold Storage at Bangsar Shopping Center, Citi Super in Sri Hartamas Shopping Center and Cold Storage in KLCC... mostly because those are the places which expats go to.

If you will look closely and compare the prices of basic stuff (like shampoo, soap, etc) from Tesco vs Cold Storage, those items can vary from RM0.50 - RM1.00 per item! So if you buy 50 items (big grocery shopping), you can quickly save almost RM50.00 from shopping at Tesco.

Another choice for very good prices would be Carrefour. I went to Mid-Valley Megamall and their Kepong branch. Mid-valley had more choices, mainly because Kepong is farther away from KLCC. I was able to find our favorite Strawberry syrup (to make a yummy strawbery drink which they always serve as "apperitif" in France). Only Carrefour carries these very French things, so we would sometimes visit. The downside is that Mid-Valley Megamall is super crowded on weekends, hence harder time to do grocery. While Kepong is out of the way (though not that far drive from Damansara Perdana).

I often end up buying the basic stuff at Tesco. Then the "fresh" things at Citi Super / Cold Storage.

Every grocery trip will cost me at least RM150- or more. Unless of course I just drop by to buy one or two things to fill the gap at home (like milk and bread). Overall, based on my estimate, the grocery expenses back home in Manila vs here in Malaysia, the pricing experience is not that far off. Only Singapore and France will go off the charts if I compute against Manila... so for those coming from the Philippines ... fear not! Grocery shopping is quite okay in Malaysia.


  1. I can completely relate! I'm an American expat in KL, and grocery shopping was quite an adventure when we first moved here. We have since learned the closest places, where to buy the best lunchmeat, the yogurt we like, etc. Still can't find edamame though :)
    Since we don't drive in KL (yet), one thing we have really gotten use out of is home grocery delivery. Most supermarkets will deliver your groceries, and there's even a "traveling grocery store" run by Phang Trading. We lovingly refer to her as the "Van Lady" and she visits many different condos/neighborhoods during the week with two big vans full of groceries. So for staples, she's great, and she can also help you locate some of those "hard-to-find" items. Let me know if you'd like her contact info and I'll get it from her tomorrow morning when she comes by!

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  2. Hello,

    I'm French and soon be living in KL (waiting for my employment pass).

    You blog is very usefull for a young guy like me who doesn't know anything about KL.

    Could you send me your e-mail as I can ask you more questions like "where to live"...
    Mine is

    You can write me in English or in French, as you want !



  3. Hello Sarah! How long have you been in KL? Thanks for writing and giving the tip about home delivery grocery. Actually they had that in Singapore (mostly bec expats don't have cars). I didn't know they have it here. Just wondering if you have compared prices with home delivery vs. Tesco / Carrefour? I am sure they put a premium to that delivery thing. But I guess it's better than taking a cab and going all the way to grocery. Yes, please do give me her contact. Will try to find out if she can get me Arborio Rice (haha finally!!!)

  4. hi Michael,

    Welcome to the growing family of expats here in KL. Just my advice, as early as now try to contact an agent to help you narrow down your choice. There are many consideration like do you plan to buy a car? Drive to work? Commute? Prefer a condo or bungalo? Want tight security? Big pool? Near a mall / grocery? I suggest you contact my good friend who is a super agent in rentals... she has helped a couple of expat friends and those who have read my blog. She is Chinese-Malaysian and can help you narrow your choice, so that when you arrive (and still living in a hotel), you can do "trippings" to various condo to see for yourself.

    Ailene Yeoh

  5. Hi Anabelle,

    The contact number for Phang Trading is 03-42573468. Their prices are right in line with Cold Storage, so you might pay a bit more than you do at Tesco, but in general the prices are very good. Hopefully she can find the rice you are looking for!

  6. heya ! i am here from pakkistan. i will soon visit malysia. I will reside at Tronoh, Perak. I want to have your kind guidence about the weather there at Malysia and the grocery stuff like bread, meat, milk, spices and clothes etc. Can you please explicitly mention the average prices of these few items so i may estimate.


  7. hi every body
    i'm narges from Iran me and my hus r comming to malaysia.ur advises were very helpfull.I wish we could use ur words in other experiences

  8. have u tried hock choon @ jalan ampang? It's right across from Ampwalk, it's a family-run supermarket that's been serving the Ampang expat community for years now. it's one of, if not THE, best place in KL to get imported food stuff.

    Also in Ampang, at the Great Eastern Mall, is a Cold Storage outlet, I've definitely seen Arborio rice sold there. And the 2 new Cold Storage outlets (at PJ Jaya One & Solaris/Soho KL) have pretty neat stuff too, the one in Solaris even has a separate floor (small section) on Japanese & Korean food stuff and snacks.

    Village Grocer at Bangsar Village I is another good place to look for imported food stuff.

    Prices at the above mentioned places are def more expensive than Tesco, but hey, u might just find exactly what you're looking for :-)

  9. Another great local store to find some comforts from home is Ampang Grocer near the elevated highway, off Jalan ampang Hilir near the new park that just opened up here. Not sure about the rice you are looking for but they have some American Brands of goods!


  10. Hi. I have always bookmarked your blog because I think this time, my hubby might move to KL from Washington, DC and I may just follow sometime in June. We are both living in Washington, DC at the moment and my biggest concern now is ORGANIC. My husband and I are very concious about ORGANIC food or food without pesticides, organic milk, chicken, etc. We also make it a point to eat fruits and veggies without pesticides. I know it's going to be a challenge in Asia to continue this but can we at least find these products?

  11. hi Domeka and Maricris
    DO NOT WORRY :) There are plenty of organic products here in Malaysia! You will be surprised of how many choices there are. You will love living in Kuala Lumpur.I can easily buy organic veggies at the grocery. Organic sugar, organic produce, etc etc...
    Hope this helps!

  12. i really find your blog useful and informative. i am a filipina and will be moving to KL this may with my kids. My husband has been based here for a few months now. i tried going grocery shopping twice and i must say our groceries back home (in manila) are better stocked and has more variety.i took note of the items i cannot find here so i can ship them over this May. i was searching for a ´Santiƛ 'type of deli and haven´t found one yet.would you be able to recommend a good one? am looking forward to our moving to KL this May.But after seeing KL i am proud to say Manila is still a good place to live in..the shopping, the malls ( Rockwell and Greenbelt) the variety of food , the culture and definitely the people.. proud to be filipino!

  13. hi fellow Pinay! Happy to hear from you. My fave places for grocery would be the following:

    1. Mercato at Plaza Damas - ease of access, good stocking, small mall so it's not crowded. I even buy my GINA MANGO juice there!

    2. Isetan KLCC - you can buy lots of good Japanese stuff , fresh sushi, high end products but a bit pricey compared to other groceries... though you get a good experience (helpful staff, nice plastic bags, etc)

    3. Cold Storage in Bangsar Shopping Center - this branch has more stuff compared to other Cold Storage.. i even buy my PUREFOODS corned beef there, along with some purefoods sausage (pork/chicken). Nice pork stuff also for cooking ADOBO.

    4. JUSCO or CARREFOUR - i would go to these places to buy basic stuff at good price. eg. washing machine powder, baby diapers at best price, dishwashing soap, toilet paper... you may want to check out CARREFOUR in Tropicana it's a good experience for us so far. Or i go to Jusco in MidValley on off peak periods.

    Good luck and happy shopping!!!

  14. Hi,
    Just happen to drop by.
    There is arborio rice at Jaya Grocer, at Empire Shopping Gallery in Subang Jaya. Lots of expat stuff too, even rhubarb. I think that's the only place that sells rhubarb. Not even Cold Storage.

  15. thanks for the info wendyywy. I heard about the Empire Shopping mall which is super new... haven't had time to check it out yet. i heard they just opened and that it is massive! Problem is SUBANG is a bit far from Mont Kiara. Maybe will check it out in the weekend. Are they a very baby-friendly mall? Wonder if there are baby changing nappy areas? I love Gardens for that... they are so baby friendly.

  16. Hi, I'm going to relocate to KL in a few months' time for about 3 years due to work. I chanced upon your blog recently and find it extremely informative, especially the post above on groceries. I've been trying to get an idea of the prices and availability of groceries in KL up till now.

    I wonder if I could find out from you, based on your experience, how long did you take to find a rented apartment to stay in KL? 'm planning to stay around KLCC area to be close to office. Thanks!

  17. Hi Anonymous sorry took too long to reply. Anyhow, just wanted to share that because of the super many condo supplies in KL it will be easy and fast to get a condo rental... It depends on area, owner and pricing. Of course ensure u get good agents who follow up constantly and help negotiate for u. Good luck!!

  18. Hi! Love your blog ! So useful! I was wondering, about groceries.... I will soon turn into a desperate housewife :-O I ve been using Doorstep to deliver my groceries for the last months, and now it turns out that they will discontinue the service. Grrrr!!! I read about the Van Lady... but was wondering if by chance you would know another website where i could read/see the items for ordering. Sometimes I get a little frustrated with comprehension in ordering things by phone. Thanks, Maria

    1. Sorry late reply.. better late than never. I enjoy going to the grocery so I have never used the doorstep deliveries. Though i can understand the convenience of it .. especially if you don't have a maid, of have kid/s to take care of or if you don't drive around here... Ordering by phone can definitely be tedious. Usually I get to see thin magazine being printed out by COld Storage and other groceries (like a catalog of their newer stuff), that might help... though it is not the full selection. Or perhaps find a small grocery near you who is willing to deliver the regular stuff you always need (our small grocery downstairs at Mont Kiara does that, like delivering whole carton of mineral/sparkling water). So sorry cannot be of much help in this arena.

  19. Hi your blog was very useful but I only have one question: Will I be able to get Importes American food items like seasoning and spices, ice-cream, pancake mix, condensed milk, chocolate surup, whip cream, plain milk etc... And if I can't can u give me some great local substitutes? Because my boyfriend lives in KL Malaysia and he usually visits me but I wanted to visit him for a change and I don't know much about anything in KL Malaysia.

    1. hi Christa, thanks for dropping by. American food items are not a problem! Places like Village Grocer, The Independent Grocer, and COld Storage, and the new Jason's Food Hall are all stocked with the items you mentioned. Not only Amercian items, even European stuff are easily available. Malaysia is such a fantastic place for foreigners bec there is PLENTY of great stuff. I was able to buy all the items you mentioned... and i mean ALL of it ... here in KL. I usually shop at Village Grocer (Bangsar / One Mont Kiara). Don't you worry. Even American restaurants like Tony Romas, Fridays, and Chili's are available.. if you feel like eating American food. But since you will be in Malaysia, i am sure the locals will want you to try their food too. Do experience it... as that will be part of your travel memories!

  20. Hi there, have you tried in Jaya grocer to get the arborio rice. You might want to try since they have some recipe using this rice and allow the customer inquire about products you cant find

  21. Hello, moving to KL in a couple of months with all my family. I read your blog about grocey and a post titled "The reality of grocery shopping in Malaysia" somewhere else. Yours is mostly positive while the other one reports horror stories, expensive and rotten vegetables, hard to find fresh products and so on. For example, is it true that more often then not milk and eggs are rotten? Or that unsold meat is mixed up and sometimes you get rotten meat out of the bag? Sorry to write that but I'm coming from Europe and my wife is worried about the "reality" post found on the internet. Thank you!!

    1. In all countries there are places that you must go and mustn't go... Plus the fact if you are willing to pay good money for good produce. Malaysia is not a primitive place as you have described. Don't worry. You will find posh places and even good organic stuff if you wish. It all depends where you shop and how much you are willing to put. Definitely cheaper than Europe!

  22. Hi,

    Been here since december, however I have been in search for a filipino grocery, would you know of any? I'd buy datu puti, lucky me, mama sita's mixes and all and I couldn't find any. :(


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