25 Mouthwatering Dishes Of Malaysia
One of the best things about living in or visiting Malaysia is the food everyone says. It is cheap and plentiful. I wanted to share with all of you some of the absolutely delicious dishes that Malaysia has to offer. I know many of them are meat based and I am not promoting meat, but there are vegetarian versions of all of them. Some of the vegetarian versions are more delicious and more healthier than their meat counterparts. If you have not been to Malaysia before and you’re planning for a visit, the food here will definitely keep you coming back many say.
These 25 mouthwatering food showcase just how rich and varied Malaysia’s culinary tradition is. For friends who are vegetarian, like I am, please don’t worry. There are quite a number of vegetarian restaurants in Malaysia such as Kechara Oasis, who can make some of the food listed below using vegetarian alternatives.
I hope you enjoy feasting your eyes on the dishes included in this article and do let me know your thoughts and experiences of Malaysian food in the comments section below.
1. Asam Laksa
Asam Laksa is a spicy fish-based rice noodle soup. It is one of the most famous dishes from Peranakan cuisine. This type of food is a fusion of both Chinese and traditional Malay cuisines that developed amongst the Peranakans, who are the descendants of Chinese migrants who settled in parts of Malaysia and whose culture intermingled with that of the local Malays. It’s an extremely popular and widespread dish in Malaysia. You can find it everywhere, especially on the streets of Penang, one of the 13 states of Malaysia.
Asam Laksa consists of fish, shredded cucumber, onions, pineapple, red chillies, common mint, lettuce, daun kesum (Vietnamese mint) and pink bunga kantan (torch ginger). It’s mostly served with thick rice noodles and some prawn paste for flavouring, though some might find this a little uncomfortable due to the strong taste.
Vegetarian versions of this dish can be found at Be Lohas at KLIA2, Water Lily Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Beyond Veggie in Kuala Lumpur and Veggie Planet in Melaka.
Rojak is a traditional salad dish made from various fruit and vegetables. It’s usually served with a generous amount of prawn paste, though this may not be suitable for people who can’t stand the strong taste. In Malaysia, there are four different types of rojak: fruit rojak, rojak Penang, sotong kangkung and Indian rojak.
Fruit rojak typically consists of cucumber, pineapple, jicama (or Mexican turnip), bean sprouts and deep-fried tofu (tau pok and you tiao). The dressing for this rojak is usually made from belacan (shrimp paste), water, sugar, lime juice, chilli and topped up with crushed peanuts.
Rojak Penang is quite similar to fruit rojak except that it usually includes extra ingredients such as guava, jambu air (java apple), raw mango and squid fritters. The dressing for this rojak is thicker, with an almost caramel-like consistency.
Sotong kangkung is a popular dish throughout Malaysia and can easily be found at many food stalls. This rojak consists of sotong (cuttlefish) and kangkung (water spinach), cucumbers, bean curd, peanuts, chilli and sauce.
Indian rojak, also known as mamak rojak or pasembor, has a thick peanut sauce that is both sweet and spicy. Ingredients for this version include boiled potatoes, hard boiled eggs, bean sprouts, cucumber. Some types of Indian rojak also include bean curd, deep fried dough fritters, prawn fritters or cuttlefish.
Rojak is a common dish, being sold in restaurants, mamak stalls, mobile vendors in food trucks, or even at road-side stalls.
3. Roti Canai
Roti Canai is a type of Indian-inspired flatbread that can be found throughout the many ‘mamak’ stalls in Malaysia. These stalls are famous for their Indian-style dishes and developed from the Muslim Tamil immigrants who settled in Malaysia. In Chinese it’s sometimes referred to as “flying bread/ 飞饼” due to the process of spinning and tossing the dough before cooking. Most of the time, it’s also referred to as “印度煎饼”, meaning Indian pancake. Traditionally, Roti Canai is serve with dhal (lentil curry) or any other type of curry popular in mamak stalls, such as fish curry, chicken curry, mutton curry, etc. Another popular way that Roti Canai is served is with a generous sprinkling of white sugar, a favourite for those with a sweet tooth.
Apart from the usually style, there are many other variations of Roti Canai, such as Roti Telur (egg bread), Roti Tisu (tissue bread) that is paper thin and flaky, Roti Bawang (onion bread), Roti Telur Bawang (egg and onion bread), Roti Pisang (banana bread), Roti Planta (margarine bread) that is often served with sugar, and many more.
4. Nasi Lemak
Nasi Lemak is a Malay dish, made from fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan (screw pine) leaf. It’s considered the national dish of Malaysia and you can easily find it everywhere. This dish is also famous in neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Southern Thailand.
The traditional Malaysian version of nasi lemak often contains ikan bilis (anchovies), sambal (a type of spicy paste), peanuts and boiled eggs. Most nasi lemak stalls can also be found serving sambal kerang (cockles) with fried egg, sambal squids, fried chicken, rendang, sambal fish and more. If you’re a vegetarian, you don’t need to worry about this because there are many restaurants such as Simple Life in Kuala Lumpur and Yummy Garden in Jalan Ujong, Melaka, which offer vegetarian nasi lemak. These restaurants substitute real anchovies with vegetarian mock anchovies.
5. Chee Cheong Fun
Chee Cheong Fun is a rice noodle roll dish. It is a Cantonese dish and originates from Southern China and Hong Kong. In Malaysia and Singapore, chee chong fun is often served with a black coloured sweet soy sauce. The Penang version of this dish uses a prawn paste, which is also black and sweet but has a toffee-like consistency.
In Ipoh, another food capital of Malaysia, chee cheong fun is often served in two ways, either dry or with a lot of sauce. For the dry version, it’s served with sesame seeds, soy sauce, fried shallots, onion oil, chilli sauce and pickled green chilli. For the version with a lot of sauce, it’s served with curry and mushroom gravy.
While certain locations would have slight variations on how the dish is served, you can find it practically everywhere in Malaysia.
6. Apam Balik
Apam Balik, also known as ban jian kuih (turnover pancake) is a type of griddled pancake common in Southeast Asia. It’s widely sold at roadside stalls throughout Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei.
The batter for the pancake is made from flour, coconut milk, water, sugar, eggs and baking soda. Traditional fillings for the apam balik include crushed peanut granules with sugar, desiccated coconut and sweetcorn kernels. The dish has been declared a heritage food by the Malaysian Department of National Heritage.
7. Curry Mee
Curry Mee is an extremely flavourful and unique dish that draws from Chinese and Indian cuisine, and can be found in both Malaysia and Singapore. It usually consists of thin yellow noodles and or thin bee-hoon (rice vermicelli) with spicy curry soup, coconut milk, chilli paste and a choice of dao-pok (dried tofu), prawns, cuttlefish, chicken, cockles, and mint leaves.
8. Penang Hokkien Mee
Penang Hokkien Mee can be found in Malaysia and Singapore. It is originally from China’s Fujian (Hokkien) province and is a famous noodle dish. Traditionally, it’s served with prawn-based spicy soup, slices of chicken or pork, squid, prawn, fish cake, kangkung (water spinach) and sambal (chilli paste).
It is a very common dish, especially in Penang, and the soup has a very flavourful and rich taste which makes almost everyone fall in love with it.
Satay is a dish of seasoned, skewered and grilled meat. In Malaysia it is often served with peanut gravy, onions and cucumbers. Satay may consist of sliced chicken, goat, mutton, beef and more. Satay is often grilled or barbecued over a charcoal fire.
It can be found in food courts all over Malaysia, at roadside food vendors and at pasar malam (nigh market) stalls. With a recent surge in vegetarian options, it can also be found in various vegetarian restaurants such as Kechara Oasis and Beyond Veggie by Secret Recipe.
Satay is usually eaten alongside another dish called ketupat. This is rice dumpling, wrapped in palms leaves in the form a diamond shape. It is a staple food, and is usually eaten as a replacement to eating plain rice with your meal. When served with satay, it is removed from the palm leaves and sliced.
Lok-Lok is a Chinese form of steamboat, in which the food is skewered on a thin stick and immersed into boiling hot stock or soup until cooked. After that, it can be eaten along with a variety of sauces. Typically it is eaten with either a spicy peanut sauce, chilli sauce or sweet sauce to enhance its flavour.
Lok-Lok can be found sold by the roadside, in food courts and nearby lively junctions of Malaysian cities and towns. Lok-Lok includes a variety of bite-sized ingredients such as clams, cockles, pork intestines, pork liver, sausages, fish balls, meat balls, squid balls, shrimps, vegetables, vegetarian mock meat, mushrooms, and even some cooked items such as deep-fried wantons and deep fried bean curd skins.
11. Penang Kuey Teow Th’ng
Penang Kuey Teow Th’ng is a traditional Chinese flat noodle dish that is served in a bowl of chicken soup or duck soup. The ingredients include fish cakes, fish balls, shredded chicken or duck, chopped spring onions, bean sprouts, and served with chilli sauce on the side. It is truly a delicious, traditional and famous Malaysian dish and there are vegetarian versions of this dish available as well.
If you’re visiting Malaysia on a trip or vacation, you must try out the Kuey Teow Soup in Penang. Its fame comes from the fact that it is so delicious.
12. Char Kway Teow
Char Kway Teow is a world-renowned dish that can be found in both Malaysia and Singapore. Char kway teow (flat noodles) are stir-fried over a very high heat with light and dark soy sauce, chilli, a small quantity of shrimp paste, whole prawns, deshelled cockles, bean sprouts and chopped Chinese chives. The dish is usually stir-fried with eggs, slices of Chinese sausage, fishcake, bean sprouts, and less commonly with other ingredients. Char kway teow is traditionally stir-fried in pork fat, with crisp croutons of pork lard. Char kway teow is commonly served on a piece of banana leaf on a plate, to increase the aroma of the noodles. Mouthwatering vegetarian versions can be requested and made, as most vendors are accommodating.
13. Wanton Noodles
Wanton Noodles is a Cantonese dish that originates from Guangzhou, China and it is widely served in other countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. There are two common versions of this dish that are available. In the first, the noodles are served with a bowl of chicken soup, and in the other, the noodles are served with black soy sauce. Toppings for the dish can include Chinese kale, wanton dumplings, five-spice roasted pork, and spring onion. Wanton noodles can be found at most food courts in Malaysia.
Otak-Otak is a dish that originates from Indonesia. It is also served in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. Otak in Malay and Indonesian is directly translated as ‘brain’. Apparently, the dish is named after brains because of its soft and squishy texture.
Otak-Otak is commonly eaten with steamed rice as a side dish. The main ingredients are fish, spices and leek, which are wrapped with banana leaf. You can find the dish in many famous restaurants like Nyonya Colours and Lorong Seratus Tahun. Vegetarian versions made from mock meat can also be found.
15. Economic Fried Bee Hoon
Economic Fried Bee Hoon is a humble dish local to Malaysia and Singapore, and is particularly popular during breakfast hours. Economic bee hoon can be truly economical with a few simple additional ingredients like cabbage and egg.
It is a very simple and delicious dish. There are also other side dishes available to go with economy bee hoon such as curry vegetables, sambal long beans, fish cakes, cabbage and eggs.
16. Mee Goreng Mamak
Mee Goreng Mamak, is a simple yet flavourful dish that is quite common and can be found in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. In the Malay language, mee goreng literally translates as ‘fried noodles’. The dish is usually cooked with fish, chicken or prawns, chilli, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, tomatoes, eggs, shallots and garlic. You can easily find this dish in mamak stalls all over Malaysia.
17. Economic Rice
Economic Rice is commonly known as mixed rice and can be found in countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. It does not refer to a specific dish and can be found in various food stalls. Depending on the vendor, there can be anywhere between 10 to 20 side dishes available to go with steamed rice. Economy Rice is predominantly thought of as a Chinese food. The dishes are very affordable, thus the name Economic Rice.
18. Bak Kut Teh
Bak Kut Teh is a very popular Teow Chew dish that originates from China. It can also be found in Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Southern Thailand and Indonesia. Bak kut teh translates directly as ‘pork bone tea’. It is usually boiled with Chinese herbs, garlic, star anise, cinnamon, mushroom, choi-sum, tofu sheets and dried tofu puffs. It is often served with steamed rice and youtiao / yau char kwai (strips of fried dough) for dipping into the soup. There are many restaurants in Malaysia, especially in Klang, Kuala Lumpur, that specialise in Bak Kut Teh as it is so popular.
19. KL Hokkien Mee
KL Hokkien Mee is Kuala Lumpur’s own unique black-coloured charcoal-fried noodles. The noodles are fried with lard, garlic, pork, pig’s liver, shrimps, squid, and cabbage. Broth is slowly added throughout the frying process, allowing the noodles to adsorb the stock slowly, thereby giving the noodle dish a very thick texture. Generous amounts of dark soy sauce is also added to the dish.
20. Nasi Kandar
Nasi Kandar is a popular northern Malaysian dish which originates from Penang. It consists of steamed fragrant rice and it’s normally served with a variety of curries poured over the rice and side dishes. The rice can be accompanied by fried chicken, rendang, lamb, fried fish, fried prawns, fried squid, cubed beef and more. Vegetarian side dishes usually include eggplant, okra, lettuce, and deep-fried bitter gourd. The variety of curries and side dishes gives nasi kandar a rich and diverse taste.
21. Nasi Dagang
Nasi Dagang is a Malaysian and Southern Thai dish. It is made from rice steamed in coconut milk and fenugreek seeds which gives it a unique fragrance. Other ingredients that accompany the rice include fish curry, hard-boiled eggs, pickled vegetables and chicken or beef rendang. This dish can be found along the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia like Kelantan, Terengganu and Southern Thailand.
22. Nasi Briyani
Nasi Briyani (briyani rice) is an Indian mixed rice dish made with basmati rice and includes a mixture of spices, yoghurt, meat and or vegetables. The ingredients and spices used may include nutmeg, pepper, cloves, ghee (clarified butter), cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon, coriander, mint leaves, ginger, onions, and garlic.
There’s a huge variety of nasi briyani such as muhroom briyani, beef briyani and vegetable briyani. Most of these can be found in mamak stalls or Indian restaurants throughout Malaysia.
Cendol is a traditional dessert that originates from Indonesia. The standard ingredients for this dessert include coconut milk, worm-like pieces of green jelly that are normally made from rice flour and green food colouring derived from pandan leaves, shaved ice and palm sugar.
Cendol is quite a common dessert dish and can be found all over Malaysia. These days it is also served with a variety of additional toppings such as red beans, grass jelly, corn kernels and glutinous rice. With the most recent trend, cendol can even be found served with durian flesh and jack fruit.
24. Ais Kacang
Ais Kacang literally means ‘ice beans’ and is a popular Malaysian dessert. Ais Kacang was traditionally made of only shaved ice and red beans. But with the current diversity of ingredients, ais kacang also comes in bright colours with various toppings such as fruit.
It’s often served with attap chee (palm seed), red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly, cubes of agar-agar (jelly), peanuts, and ice cream. A final topping of condensed milk, evaporated milk and/or coconut milk is drizzled over the mountain of shaved ice along with some syrup bandung (rose syrup). There are quite a number of varieties of ais kacang available all over Malaysia, and in some versions, instead of coconut milk, it’s served with gula melaka (palm sugar).
Durian is a very popular fruit in Southeast Asia. Known for its unique and strong smell, as well as its texture, it is called the ‘king of fruits’. Durian has a very spiky and green coloured outer layer which is inedible, however the seeds are covered in a yellow coloured flesh which you can eat and has a thick custard-like texture.
Durian has such a strong smell that it has been banned from certain restaurants and even hotels. Durian is one of the food that you either love or hate.
For those of you around the world who are vegetarian, you can also experience Malaysian cuisine. The restaurants listed below have a number of vegetarian dishes cooked in the traditional style. This is just a small list and vegetarian restaurants can be found in all major cities and towns.
Kechara Oasis Jaya One
63 & 67-P1, Block D,
The Suites, Jaya One,
No 72A, Jalan Universiti,
46200 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor Darul Ehsan.
Phone: +6012 8188 384
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 11am – 3pm & 6pm – 10pm
Kechara Oasis Viva Home Mall
Lot 2.08 2nd Floor,
Viva Home Mall,
85 Jalan Loke Yew,
55200 Kuala Lumpur.
Phone: +6012 8188 384
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 11am – 3pm & 6pm – 10pm
Be Lohas, KLIA2
L2M-19, Level 2M,
Jalan KLIA 2/1,
Phone: +608 7878 165
Opening hours: 6am – 12am
Water Lily Vegetarian Restaurant
23 Jalan Tun H S Lee,
50000 Kuala Lumpur.
Phone: +603 2070 6561
Opening hours: 10am – 9:30pm
There are approximately 14 Beyond Veggie restaurants in Malaysia.
Opening hours: 10am – 11pm or as regulated by the malls the restaurants are located in.
41&43, Jalan Melaka Raya 8,
Taman Melaka Raya,
Phone: +606 2922 819
Opening hours: 9am – 10pm
There are around 11 Simple Life restaurants in Malaysia.
Opening hours: as regulated by the malls the restaurants are located in.
Yummy Garden Food Court
16-A, Jalan Ujong Pasir,
Phone: +6012 601 5677
Opening hours: 5pm – 5am
For more interesting information:
- Vegetarian Restaurant Review
- Nice Indian Food
- Top Reasons to Take Warm Turmeric Water in the Morning
- Can You Make This?
- Dr Jiang’s DELICIOUS HEALTHY RECIPES/videos
- 50 Incredible Vegetarian/Vegan Recipes!
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