Malaysia is a food haven and there are a lot of delicacies you must try when you are travelling in the country. This article will give you a peek into the best Malaysian food that you must not miss out on trying.
1. Nasi Lemak – The national food of Malaysia
Nasi Lemak is the staple food every Malaysian eats and is fond of. It is a comfort food that everyone in this region simply loves and is a fragrant rice dish, cooked in coconut milk, with a variety of accompaniments. The entire dish usually includes rice cooked in coconut milk with pandan leaves, or screwpine, usually served with sambal – a paste made from anchovies and chilli, cucumber, peanuts and at times also served with a hard-boiled or fried egg.
You can find Nasi Lemak anywhere in Malaysia and it costs very little (around RM 2 or approx 0.50 USD). You can also find a vegetarian version of this dish, all you need to do is ask!
Satay is a popular street food made from seasoned and grilled, skewered meat – usually chicken or beef. The meat is marinated in a distinct blend of lemongrass, turmeric and other local spices. Kajang satay is said to be one of the best in town and full of flavour. Satay is usually served with some delicious chunky peanut sauce and sometimes a dollop of spicy sambal, so you feel the burst of flavour in your mouth when you bite into a piece! You can eat delicious satay at the night markets that crop up during the various days of the week.
3. Bak Kut Teh
Bak Kut Teh is a pork rib dish, cooked in broth and very popular in Malaysia and Singapore. The dish traces its origin to the Hoklo and Teochew community, who made it popular in this region. The dish consists of meaty pork ribs which are simmered for hours, in a broth of several herbs and spices such as cinnamon, star anise, cloves, garlic and fennel seeds. Although the word Teh (which means tea in Malay) is a part of the name, there is no tea in the dish – the name actually refers to a strong oolong Chinese tea that is usually served alongside the soup. This soup is believed to dissolve the fat, present in this pork-dish. You get good bak kut teh in almost every part of Malaysia, look for a Chinese shop.
4. Roti Canai
Pronounced as roti “Chanaai”, this dish is said to have been brought to Malaysia by the Mamaks, who arrived in Malaysia years ago. It is basically a flaky, flat bread, traditionally served with dhal (lentil curry) or any other curry, such as chicken or mutton. Over the years, the versatile roti canai has undergone many variations to include a variety of fillings and toppings such as eggs, condensed milk, Nutella, peanut butter and banana, to name a few. Look for a Mamak shop and you will surely find some delicious roti canai!
Cendol is a traditional dessert, available in southeast Asia. It is made from rice flour and a few other ingredients, mixed with palm sugar and coconut milk. The worm-like rice flour jelly is supposedly called “jendol” in Indonesian and that is how it got its name. Try this interesting dish at roadside shops or in fancy restaurants, people here just love it. Each region in Malaysia has its version of Cendol, try them all!
6. Sarawak Laksa
Laksa is a very popular, spicy noodle soup that is a prime feature of Peranakan cuisine. It usually consists of rice noodles along with prawns, fish or chicken and served with a spicy broth. This soup can be a rich and spicy coconut milk curry or made with tamarind, called Asam Laksa. Sarawak Laksa is a dish popular in the Malaysian state of Sarawak and is made with a paste of galangal, shallots, dried chillies, lemongrass and other herbs and spices, along with chicken stock and coconut milk. For the most authentic version, you might want to travel to Sarawak, but you can get good Sarawak Laksa in different parts of Malaysia.
Rendang is a spicy meat dish, said to have its origins in Indonesia, but it is equally popular in Malaysia. Rendang is a dish you get to see during Ramadan feasts. Although it is called a curry, it is not actually one since it is not a loose gravy dish. You can try delicious chicken rendang, beef liver rendang or even duck. Depending on the meat that is used, rendang is named accordingly. So look for shops selling rendang and try out all the varieties.
8. Char Siew Rice
Char Siew or Char Siu rice is a typical Chinese dish, served with flavourful barbequed pork and rice. Char Siew literally means “fork roast” and it is made with long strips of seasoned, boneless pork, skewered with long forks and placed in a covered oven or over a fire, giving it its intense flavour and colour. You can find stalls selling the best char siew in different parts of Malaysia, especially in the Chinese dominated areas of the country.
9. Banana Leaf Rice
Banana leaf rice refers to a meal served on a banana leaf and is the traditional method of serving food in south Indian cuisine. Since the south Indian people migrated to countries like Malaysia and Singapore, the cuisine, over the years, has become a part and parcel of Malaysian cuisine. Typically, in banana leaf meals, we are served white or parboiled rice with curry, called”sambar”, along with a variety of vegetables, pickles and papadom, or crispy flatbread.
The banana leaf acts as a disposable plate and it in itself is not consumed. Meals on the banana leaf are meant to be eaten by hand, as it is said to enhance the entire food experience – in terms of all senses. A banana leaf meal usually costs around RM 7-10 (approx 1.60-2.30 USD), depending on the side dishes you order. Look for restaurants with the signage “Banana Leaf Rice” and remember that banana leaf meals are primarily served only for lunch.
10. Hokkien Mee
Hokkien mee is a noodle dish that is quite popular in Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine. The dish has its origins in Fujian (Hokkien) province, in China. It usually consists of egg or rice noodles that are stir fried with egg, prawns, slices of pork, and squid. Other additions include some vegetables, lard, lime and sambal sauce for added sourness and spice. You can choose from Hokkien Char Mee, popular in Kuala Lumpur or Penang Hae Mee (prawn noodles) that is famous in Penang. So, eat away!
Eat to your heart’s content
As already mentioned, Malaysia is a food haven and the food reflects the motto of this country – “Truly Asia”. The cuisine is a wonderful mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian flavours and it is loved equally by all. If you have food restrictions, do ask the chef to prepare the food as per your liking. Muslims can look for eateries that serve Halal food, very easily. Enjoy your food journey in Malaysia with its amazing food!