One of the best ways to explore any country is through its food and when it comes to Malaysia, you cannot do without gorging on the numerous lip-smacking dishes Malaysian cuisine has to offer. With significant influences from the Malays, Chinese, Thai, Indians, and Indonesians, Malaysian actually serves a gastronomic mix of cultures on a platter. The flavor of dishes is full bodied as the use of aromatic spice blends is rampant. The Malaysians are passionate about their food and that is evident from the mind boggling variety of dishes you will come across when you are in their country. With so many choices to pick from, you can actually get lost in thinking and planning which one to explore. We are here to make your task easier.
This is one of the most famous dishes which comes to mind when the word Malaysia is spoken. It is a spicy noodle soup which has its distinct variations in different islands throughout the country. Laksa was a staple food item in the Malay and Chinese cuisines which has many ingredients like chopped fish, sliced onions, sliced cucumbers with a dash of tamarind to lend its unique taste and flavor cooked along with a choice of thick or thin noodles made from rice. Some street stalls also add coconut milk in it which lends is a different and sweeter taste.
Koay Teow is a snack item which is a unique dish which must be savored to sample the local cuisine in Malaysia. It is basically a street stall snack made of a choice of thick or thin rice noodles sautéed with a choice of veggies like bean sprouts, sliced onions, sprinkled with chili flakes and a choice of meat like prawns, crabs or chicken. It is a little spicy and oily which is just the way it’s meant to be!
Wonton Mee as the name suggests is one of the staple food dishes which has come from the Chinese cuisine. It is made with a choice of dumplings or wontons cooked with a variety of vegetables like jalapeno peppers and choice of meats like pork, egg, chicken and fish. Wonton Mee comes in a variety of variations like in a soupy broth or just dry as an appetizer. It can be had as a snack or as the main course too.
Malaysia has a good percentage of Indians as well lending it many dishes from its land as well. Banana leaf rice is one of the staples of the southern India which is served in the banana leaf. It is one of the vegetarian dishes on this list which is pretty exciting to have as the diner doesn’t get a plate to eat fro, rather he gets just rice served on a banana leaf!
The rice itself has a variety of accompaniments with it like a variety of local vegetable curries, dry and with gravy with a side of salad and local pickles as well. Oh yes, you need to eat with your right hand and fingers and not spoon as it will not be served with spoon and fork! You can ask for spoon and fork though for anyone not accustomed to eating with their hands!
Cendol is one of the most weather appropriate food items available as it is so cold and soothing to have in the hot and tropical climate of Malaysia.
Comprising of ice, coconut milk, palm sugar and food jelly with food coloring added to make it pretty, Cendol is just awesome as a desert or even just as a snack. You have to devour it once to believe the huge lines in front of the Cendol stalls in the cities of Malaysia. Old or young, it has its loyal followers amongst the locals and tourists also fall in love with it after having it once.
Nasi Lemak is a fragrant rice dish in Malaysia and is extremely popular here, so much so that it is considered the national dish. Malaysian typically has it for breakfast, but it is not uncommon to see it being served any time of the day. Rice served in this dish is cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves and served on a banana leaf (though some restaurants also serve it on regular plates) along with a spicy sambal sauce, ikan bilis (deep fried anchovies), roasted peanuts, cucumber slices and sliced hard-boiled egg on its side. Again there are many regional variations of it and you can find a variety of additional food served with it like chicken, beef rendang, pickled vegetables, etc.
For rice lovers, Malaysian cuisine has more in store – check out this local rice dish called Nasi Kandar.
With its origin in Penang, it is quite a popular dish in northern Malaysia. Typically, the rice in this dish is steamed and sometimes can be mildly flavoured and is served with various curries and side dishes. Common side dishes that are served with it include chicken, curried mutton, cubed beef, fish roe or fried prawns. Veggies like aubergine, lady fingers, or bitter gourd are also served. The curry sauces are poured over the rice (actually, the rice is flooded with the sauces) and the rice soaks in the flavours from the sauce. It is also called nasi banjir which means flooded rice.
Rojak literally means ‘an eclectic mix’ or ‘a blend’ in Malay and true to its name Rojak is a spicy salad which consists of a mixture of tropical fruits and vegetables. It comes with a mix of flavours and textures and that is one reason it is so popular among the locals here. The ingredients that set is apart from regular fruits and veggie salad are the sauces used to spice it with which includes Sambal Belacan (a mix of shrimp and chili paste), hei ko (sweet shrimp paste), caramel soy sauce and sweet sauce. Common ingredients used in making Rojak are cucumbers, jicama, pineapple, rose apple, peanuts and bean curds. Many like to include cuttlefish, fried tofu, and crispy fritters in it. Rojak is incredibly flavorful and is a must try Malaysian food.
Another of the very popular snack that is savoured throughout Malaysia is Satay. Satays are typically meat skewers that are grilled over the high heat of charcoal fire. Chicken or beef are the most used meats in satay. The pieces of meat are marinated in a flavourful paste of shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin and turmeric and then it grilled – this process ensures that the flavours of the marinade seep into the meat. Satay is served with delicious dipping sauces – the most popular among them is a sweet and creamy peanut sauce.
Too tempting is it! Well the best way is to come to the country and sample all the delicacies yourself and make the trip an experience of a lifetime. Do share your ideas and experiences with all the community by posting in the comments section below. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to get more such great ideas and explore destinations and their cuisines.