That’s right, you perked up a bit didn’t you?
Malaysia is a total food haven. Because of the diversity here, even the cuisine encompasses all different tastes of various ethnic groups. To attempt to eat them all is going to be such a Herculean task, but we all know you’re up for it.
So when you visit the hawker centres sprawled around Kuala Lumpur or Penang, all those restaurants teeming with locals ready to get their fill, make sure you have this list of Malaysia’s delectable dishes to help you order.
Malaysia being in Asia, you know we have to start with a rice dish. Nasi Kandar is the contribution of the Indian community to Malaysian cuisine which originated in Penang.
“Nasi” means white rice and “kandar” is referring to the wood used to carry the rice in. When you order Nasi Kandar, you pick the side dishes you want with the white rice like fried squid, okara, beef cubes, bitter gourd, eggplant, and more. Then it is all flooded with the curry sauce of your choice.
Just let the sauce soak in side dishes and rice, and enjoy that tempting aroma.
Laksa is a staple dish in Singapore and the whole of Malaysia. But it is the assam (tamarind) twist from Penang that made this a local favourite.
It is made with thick rice noodles, fish, and various herbs like lemongrass, mint, and ginger flower. Then hae ko or fermented shrimp is added to the mix, together with vegetables and garnishes like fish balls and eggs.
You may choose different levels of spice for the sauce. For the brave, you can definitely choose a spice level of the lava kind.
Hokkien Char Mee
Fried Hokkien Char Mee is a fried noodle dish that originated in China. It is made with thick yellow noodles which braised with dark soy sauce. It comes with squid, cabbages, fried pork, prawns, along with a choi sum and a spicy sauce called Sambal Belacan.
The Malay version comes with a broth made with shrimp stock and includes chicken and pork, garnished with fish cake, fresh lime, onions, and pork ribs.
Made from a glutinous rice mixed with coconut milk, which is cooked in a bamboo. This sounds like the Binongey of the Philippines or the Khao Neeo Mamuang of Thailand — both are sticky rice eaten with mango. But the Lemang is different, it is best eaten with vegetables or meat.
The way the pineapples make sense if you think about how salty the pizza is, the sweetness of the sticky coconut rice can counter the saltiness of the food.
It takes so much time to cook the Lemang. You will have to hollow out a bamboo shoot and line it with banana leaves. Then it will have to be left on fire to slow cook the rice, a process called tapai.
Meat on a stick is always good. You skewer marinated cubes of your favourite meat and then cook and char it over a barbecue grill. It’s such a simple process that anywhere in the world, they feature a dish like this. The Shishkebab of Turkey, the Yakitori of Japan, the Sosatie of South Africa, and the Satay in Malaysia.
There is Satay in Thailand, which is said to have originated in Indonesia. But what makes Malaysia’s Satay different is the turmeric, which gives it that yellow, savoury look. It also comes with a spicy peanut butter sauce.
There is another kind of Satay in Malaysia called the Satay Celup or the LokLok. It works like a hotpot, where you choose what meat or vegetables to skewer, and then you dip it in boiling hot peanut sauce.
In Malay, Rojak means a “mixture” or something you need to mix. True enough, a Rojak is a dish made with vegetables and tropical fruits which you will mix together with a sauce made with lime, shrimp paste, and chilli.
Each city in Malaysia has different ways of preparing Rojak, but this dish can include apples, bean curds, jicamas, cucumbers, fried tofu, guava, squid fritters, cuttlefish, and more. To top it all of is a garnish of crushed ground peanuts.
It’s the perfect sweet-savoury-sour dish that will not leave your taste buds confused, it’s more like an umami experience that you will keep looking for.
Char Kuey Teow
Cooked in a Chinese wok, the Char Kuey Teow is probably the most flavourful noodle dish in Malaysia. It is made with flat rice noodles fried with pork, bean sprouts, Chinese sausages, cockles, and prawns. All of these are mixed with a dark and light soy sauce to give it that aroma and enhance the flavour of the toppings.
It is cooked in individual batches to allow the noodles to fully absorb the sauce. Then all the toppings are slowly added and mixed into the wok. If you check out how the hawker centres prepare the Char Kuey Teow, some of them cook it over charcoal because they believe this adds flavour.
A dish inspired by Indian cuisine, the Roti Canai is a flatbread which comes with different dips. It is made with flour, butter, and water. You can eat the Roti Canai with the Sambal Belacan, which is a spicy shrimp paste. But you can also eat this with a variety of curries. The sweet version, which is made with condensed milk, can be eaten with fruit like bananas.
It is the perfect snack if you want something light in the afternoon, with sweet milk and a couple of fruits. Or maybe as a light dinner. You can just scoop up your saucy viand and enjoy a movie or two.
One look at the Popia Basah and you might find that it shares a similar appearance to the Vietnamese spring rolls. Within the wrapping are julienned vegetables like jicama, cabbage, carrot, and shallots. It also comes with chopped shrimp and pork. But rest assured that the Malay Popia Basah is so much different in flavour because of the sauces that come with it like their favourite Sambal Belacan and other regional-specific dips.
The Roti Jala, also known as the Net Bread, is made with flour, eggs, coconut milk, and a bit of turmeric mixed with water, They are cooked in a skillet by making zig-zagging lines first and then folded like a crepe to finish it off. It is usually eaten with curry.
Called the unofficial national dish of Malaysia, the Nasi Lemak is a coconut infused rice dish which comes with shrimp paste, vegetables, fried anchovies, egg, chicken, cuttlefish, beef, and more.
Traditionally, the Nasi Lemak is eaten for breakfast. But nowadays people are ordering it any time of the day.
And we end this list with a favourite Malay dessert. It is made with shaved ice, lots of coconut milk, green rice jelly, palm sugar syrup, sweet corn, and other ingredients.
After a food crawl all over Malaysia gorging on these delectable dishes, you may have to retire to your hotel room for a couple of hours. If you’re planning to go on a food coma, you may as well stay in a Kuala Lumpur accommodation replete with all the amenities you’ll need to relax and get the food digesting properly.
So why not treat yourself to one of Malaysia’s premier hotels, the Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur. They are now offering a 20% discount on their 5-star accommodation, plus a buffet breakfast inclusion. All you need to do is book on the Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur website and use the promo code LOVERCKL.
Note that it only works when you book directly on their website, so you should definitely reserve your Kuala Lumpur accommodation there.
So you better pack up your eating pants and get ready for a food crawl you’ll never forget!