10 Delicious Local Breakfast Dishes To Try in Malaysia

Curry Puff Stuffed Chicken on Banana Leaf Background
Curry Puff Stuffed Chicken on Banana Leaf Background | © Regreto/Shutterstock
Photo of Michelle Leong
19 May 2018

If you’ve never had rice, noodles, or fried pancake for breakfast, it’s time you ventured out of your comfort zone — and Malaysia has the best options.

Nasi lemak

Nasi Lemak is a Malay Fragrant Rice Dish Cooked in Coconut Milk and Pandan Leaf | © dolphfyn/Shutterstock

Malaysia’s favorite breakfast comes wrapped in a palm leaf pouch. The rice is steamed with coconut cream or milk, and served with fried anchovies, sambal (spicy shrimp paste), boiled or fried egg, and sometimes peanuts. Go local at the market and get it for RM2 ($0.50), or go fancy at a boutique cafe and have it for RM15 ($3.75).

Roti canai

Roti Canai or Roti Prata Served With Curry Chicken as Dipping | © SooKK/Shutterstock

If there’s only one roti you’ll try in Malaysia, this should be it. This fried pancake of Indian origin is usually served with dal (lentil-based soup) or kari ikan (fish curry) and is best eaten with bare hands. This meal is sometimes known as roti prata, particularly in southern Peninsula Malaysia. If you wish, you can ask that it be cooked with egg, in which case it would be called ‘roti telur.’

Dim sum

Yumcha, Chinese steamed dumplings | © Ne3p/Shutterstock

If you prefer snacks to breakfasts, or snacks for breakfast, this bite-sized style of cuisine will suit your palate and your gastronomic fashion. Fresh, flavorful, and steaming, food is typically served in bamboo steamer baskets. If your preference is halal, Malaysia has plenty of halal dim sum restaurants to choose from.

Soft-boiled eggs

Asian popular traditional breakfast of half boiled eggs with soy sauce and pepper | © ThamKC / Shutterstock

Ask for soft or half-boiled eggs at any kopitiam (coffee shop), and the eggs will arrive in their shells, with soy sauce and white pepper powder on the side. Crack them open in a bowl or cup (provided), pour in the soy sauce and dabble on the pepper — your (cheap and healthy) breakfast is served.

Curry puff

Curry Puff Stuffed Chicken on Banana Leaf Background | © Regreto/Shutterstock

This snack often doubles up as breakfast, particularly for those who are on the go. It’s a small fried pastry braided on the side and stuffed with curry potatoes and/or chicken. It looks like a fried dumpling, is textured like a pie, and tastes like curry — and you thoughts MasterChef was innovative with food.

Apam balik

Apam Balik or Peanut Pancake Turnover, Malaysian Local Dessert | © twinsmom/Shutterstock

Pancakes aren’t just served with maple syrup, cream, or blueberries. Malaysia’s breakfast griddle pancake known as apam balik is stuffed with nuts, sweetcorn, or chocolate sauce, and then flipped over for good measure. You won’t go back to the silver dollar after this.

Nasi kunyit

Nasi Kunyit also known as Turmeric rice | © Aizuddin Saad/Shutterstock

It’s yellow, it’s sticky, and it’s delicious. This glutinous rice dish is perfumed and colored by turmeric, and typically eaten with chicken curry. Traditionally reserved for special occasions and celebrations, you can now find this at Ramadan bazaars and, sometimes, at morning markets.

If you’re visiting Penang, we recommend the nasi kunyit at Li Er Nyonya. It’s available on Fridays only, but well worth the trip.


Dosa, Crispy Savoury Pancake from South India | © javarman/Shutterstock

This long, crepe-like meal may look huge when served, but you’ll soon see that it takes up a small room in your stomach. This is typically served with yogurt or curry on the side. Also, nobody knows how to spell tosai, so you’ll find it variably as ‘tosei,’ ‘thosai,’ or even ‘dosai.’

Wan tan mee

Wan Thun Mee, Malaysian BBQ pork noodle, in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia | © nitsawan katerattanakul/Shutterstock

If you like your noodles, why not have it for breakfast? This noodle dish is served with oyster sauce, wonton dumplings, slices of sweet roasted pork, and a hot bowl of broth on the side. Halal and vegetarian options are also popular.

Kaya toast

Kaya butter toast, Ipoh, Perak | © Suthida Sririttha/Shutterstock

Of course, we couldn’t end this list without including kaya toast! Filled with coconut jam, this toasted sandwich will offer a sweet start to your day. This is usually paired with a cup of coffee or tea, and sometimes complemented by a couple of soft-boiled eggs.

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