Like the country itself, Malaysian cuisine is incredibly diverse. With Malay, Indian, and Chinese influences, it’s characterized by a multitude of amazing flavors, you’re in for a real treat when visiting a multiracial nation. Yet, with its trove of exceptionally tasty foods, choosing which one to try first can be a daunting task. No worries, as we got your palates covered! Here are the top foods you need to get your hands on your trip to Malaysia. Eat to your heart’s content and savor the unique and delectable Malaysian cuisine.
Often regarded as Malaysia’s national dish, Nasi Lemak is well-loved by the locals, a staple that is easy to find anywhere. This fragrant rice dish is comprised of rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves. It’s then added with flavorful accompaniments, such as fried anchovies, sambal chili sauce, peanuts, cucumber slices, and fried or hard-boiled eggs.
You can eat it at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Plus, it costs only around RM4-15, depending on the eatery or restaurant, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious aromatic dish without spending too much.
Bak Kut Teh
Also popular in neighboring Singapore, Bak Kut Teh is a meaty pork rib dish cooked in salty broth. It’s added with different herbs and spices, such as garlic, star anise, and fennel cinnamon. Outstandingly fragrant and tasty, consuming bak kut teh is very gratifying especially when eaten in the morning or when savored on a rainy day.
Banana Leaf Rice
Drawing from south Indian cuisine, banana leaf rice is basically a meal served on a banana leaf. A giant scoop of white rite sits in the middle, surrounded by vegetable curries, crispy papadums, and pickles. The banana leaf acts as the place. Plus, no utensils will be provided as you need to eat in the traditional way or using your hands! It’s a whole new different experience. Just go on and devour!
Roti canai is a light, crispy, flaky, and buttery flatbread paired with curry or spicy dipping sauces, or plain sugar. Through the years, different variations of the roti canai have emerged. Others are mixed with cocoa or eggs, or topped with milk, peanut butter, and banana. Regardless of which, it’s a must-try food in Malaysia. Check out a Mamak shop and you’ll definitely find some tasty roti canai!
Satay may look like your typical grilled, skewered meat, but once you taste it, you’ll know why it’s one of the most popular street foods in Malaysia. The meat, usually chicken or beef, is marinated in a tasty blend of turmeric, lemongrass, and other local spices. It’s then slightly charred on a grill and then served with peanut or sambal chili sauce. It’s very juicy and flavors will just burst in your mouth on every bite. Malaysian airlines have them on their flights if you can’t wait to try them, then look out for night markets that pop up on various days of the week for more delicious satay.
Literally meaning “grilled fish,” Ikan Bakar refers to various kinds of fish marinated in chili, sambal, and turmeric, wrapped in banana leaf and then grilled over charcoal. The tasty moist fish tastes perfect with a plate of steamy hot rice. Add the curries, vegetable dishes, and sauces on the side, it makes up a scrumptious meal.
Originating from the northwest state of Penang, Nasi Kandar is basically steamed rice, served with assortments of curries and sides, such as meat, seafood, and vegetables. Its name was derived from the way mobile vendors used to carry and sell the dish, transporting them around on large pots hung on kandar poles on their shoulders. Today, it remains a popular dish in the country. Though mostly enjoyed as a nutritious breakfast, you can find nasi kandar in hawker shops open 24 hours a day.
Curry Laksa and Assam Laksa
You can find a long list of laksa dishes in Malaysia, but the first ones you should try are the curry laksa and Assam laksa. Curry laksa is a rich, flavorful noodle dish, made of coconut, rempah, lemongrass, ginger, chili, and other spices. It’s then added with tofu, shrimp, eggs, cucumber, and fish balls. On the other hand, Assam laksa is a murky brown, tart and tamarind-based fish soup, added with noodles, mint, pineapple, mint, ginger, and cucumber, for a perfect blend of saltiness, sweetness, and spiciness. Try both and taste the difference, but expect that both will get you hooked at your first sip.
Char Kway Teow
Char kway teow is another classic favorite Malaysian dish from Penang. It’s made of flat rice noodles stir-fried on roaring heat and added with prawns, bean sprouts, chives, chili, eggs, sausage, and soy sauce. It’s extremely delicious – don’t be surprised to already order another place without even finishing your first.
Are you looking for some dessert? Cendol is your best bet. It’s made of layered ice, poured with coconut milk and palm sugar syrup, containing strips of green rice flour jelly Additional toppings can include red beans, durian, or jackfruit. It is commonly sold on roadside shops but is also served in fancier restaurants. Malaysians just love this dessert – taste and you’ll certainly be loving it too!
Malaysian cuisine’s wonderful mix of flavors from its Malay, Indian, and Chinese origins doesn’t disappoint. The foods outlined on this list are only a glimpse of many other delicious treats available in the country. So, go ahead and discover Malaysia’s other offerings after trying these and enjoy your journey in this food haven.