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13 Dishes to Eat When You're in Malaysia

Satay being cooked over charcoal grill © Khairil Zhafri/Flickr
Satay being cooked over charcoal grill © Khairil Zhafri/Flickr
Food springs to mind when we think about Malaysia. The multi-cultural delicacies with wonderful flavours will delight your palate during your travels. Here are the dishes that you must try in Malaysia.

Nasi Lemak

The rice, cooked in coconut milk, is served with sweet and spicy sambal, fried anchovies, groundnuts, a few slices of fresh cucumbers, and hard-boiled egg. You can ask for various curries (such as beef rendang), fried chicken, or fried fish to be added to your nasi lemak. You can even get a small pack of plain nasi lemak wrapped in banana leaf for just RM2 (USD 0.50) at a mamak stall. Among our recommendations for places to enjoy delicious nasi lemak, are Village Park Restaurant and Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock or as a late night supper at Nasi Lemak Bumbung.

Village Park Restaurant, 5, Jalan SS 21/37, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia,+60 3-7710 7860

Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock, Jalan Balai Polis 13, Kuala Lumpur, 50000, Malaysia, +60 3 7832 3138

Nasi Lemak Bumbung, Jalan 21/11b, Sea Park, 46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, +60 16-493 9204

Nasi Lemak © Sham Hardy/Flickr

Satay

Skewered meats are cooked over a charcoal grill to give a smoky taste to the tender marinated meat. They are served with peanut sauce, diced onions and cucumbers. Savour the delicious Kajang satay at Medan Sate Kajang and Restoran Sate Kajang Haji Samuri, a short walking distance away from Stadium Kajang MRT Station. Another way to enjoy satay is Melaka’s satay celup, skewered meats, seafood, and vegetables cooked in spicy peanut sauce. Try satay celup at Restoran Capitol Satay and Ban Lee Siang Satay Celup.

Restoran Sate Kajang Haji Samuri, Jalan Hishammuddin, Bandar Kajang, 43000 Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia, +60 3-8737 1853

Restoran Capitol Satay, 41, Lorong Bukit Cina, Bandar Hilir, 75100 Melaka, Malaysia, +60 6-283 5508

Ban Lee Siang Satay Celup, 45-E, Jalan Ong Kim Wee, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia, +60 12-651 5322

Kajang Satay served with spicy peanut sauce © Marufish/Flickr

Nasi Kerabu

Hailing from Kelantan, nasi kerabu, known as rice salad, is blue-coloured rice (cooked in butterfly pea flowers) served with fried chicken or fish, grated coconut, keropok (fish crackers), salted egg, and freshly chopped herbs and salad. Mix them together with sambal, savoury sauces and curries for an array of abundant flavours dancing on your palate. Try the comfort nasi kerabu at Kesom Café and Chun Buri Seafood. They prepare the ingredients in the early mornings before opening hours.

Nasi Kerabu © amrufm/Flickr

Char Kway Teow

These stir-fry rice noodles are cooked together with fresh prawns, cockles, bean sprouts, slices of Chinese sausage, egg, crispy pork lard, and a hint of belacan in a big wok on high heat. Sometimes duck egg is added to give a rich flavour, while other versions are served with added sliced fish cakes. There are plenty of hawker stalls that sells char kway teow especially in popular foodie spots in Klang Valley and Penang. Enjoy the wok hei (intense flavours and texture cooked from the heated wok) char kway teow at Siam Road Char Kway Teow in Penang.

Siam Road Char Kway Teow, Jalan Siam, George Town, 10400 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Penang Char Kway Teow © Pandora Voon/Flickr

Laksa

Laksa is one of the popular Malaysian dishes, rice noodles cooked in spicy broth. Depending on what tempts you to try, you will discover a wide range of laksa dishes from different states that represent the local culture. Penang is known to serve asam laksa in spicy and sour fish broth while Melaka’s nyonya laksa is cooked in a creamy coconut-milk curry base. Sarawak laksa are known to have a subtle spicy broth with aromatic herbs. Johor laksa is served dried with thick seafood gravy along with fresh vegetables. Stop by to try their unique laksa while travelling across Malaysia.

Asam Laksa in Penang © Pandora Voon/Flickr

Banana Leaf Rice

Have a hands-on experience savouring banana leaf rice served at restaurants and mamak. The staff will place the banana leaf in front of you followed by rice, various pickles and vegetables, and curries for you to choose. It’s a popular meal to enjoy particularly as a social eating experience on Fridays and weekends. Once you’re done, the way you fold your banana leaf is significant, fold it towards you to show appreciation for your meal, at a funeral it is folded away from the diner (to show condolences) and so this is not appropriate at other times. Enjoy banana leaf meals at Sri Nirwana Maju and Vishal Food & Catering.

Banan Leaf Rice © tisay/Flickr

Cendol

Melaka’s popular dessert, cendol, is shaved ice served in a bowl topped with pandan jelly-like rice noodles, creamy coconut milk, and drizzled gula Melaka (palm sugar). It is the perfect way to beat the tropical heat. There are various spots across Malaysia to enjoy this sweet and cold dessert. Try them at Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul (Penang), Ah Keong’s ABC & Ice Cendol Stall (Penang), and Aunty Koh Cendol (Melaka).

Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul, Jalan Penang, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia, +60 4-262 6002

Cendol © Derrick Loh/Flickr

Bak Kut Teh

Bak kut teh, pork ribs are cooked in deeply flavoured, fragrant broth with herbs and spices. Some are cooked with different cuts of meat such as tenderloin and loin ribs. Assorted mushrooms, choy sum (a type of Chinese vegetable), and dried tofu are added to the dish. The best places to try bak kut teh are in Klang and Kepong. The warm and meaty broth with rice is great for your breakfast or dinner. Be sure to come as early as possible as the good ingredients and meat sell out quickly.

Bak Kut Teh © Charles Haynes/Flickr

Roti Tisu

This thin and crispy flatbread is coated with margarine, sugar, and condensed milk. It is rolled up into a cone-like shape, making it as tall as possible to be shared with your friends. You can eat it as it is or together with dhal. Take your time to eat this as some parts may break apart once you start eating. You can find roti tisu at mamaks in Malaysia. Head over to Original Kayu where they serve their 80cm roti tisu.

Original Kayu, No.1 & 3, Jalan Dwi Tasik 1, Bandar Sri Permaisuri 1, Cheras, 56000, Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia, +60 3-9173 2777

Roti Tisu © LWYang/Flickr

Assorted Kuih-Muih

These bite-sized traditional snacks and desserts, from layered cakes to cookies made with glutinous rice, will satisfy your treat cravings. Most of them are added with grated coconut, pandan leaves, coconut cream, and palm sugar to create various treats in all different shapes and sizes. For starters, try these popular kuih-muih: Seri Muka (glutinous rice with coconut milk, sugar, and pandan leaves), Ondeh-ondeh (pandan glutinous rice ball with palm sugar coated with grated coconut), colourful Kuih Lapis (layered cake), and Kuih Pulut Tai Tai (steamed blue glutinous rice with butterfly pea flower) served with kaya (coconut jam).

Various kuih-muih to choose from © Chang'r/Flickr

Prawn Mee

Egg and rice noodles are cooked in rich prawn broth served with prawns, pork, sliced fish cakes, hard-boiled eggs, and bean sprouts. They are served together with homemade spicy chilli sauce and lime. The fried prawn shells and head are boiled up to create the broth which is vital to make the perfect prawn mee. Some of the broths have added pork bones for a richer flavour. Slurp the delicious prawn mee at Choon Prawn Mee House, Restoran Yong Len, 888 Hokkien Prawn Mee, and Sungai Ara Hokkien Mee.

Prawn Mee in Penang © Yun Huang Yong/Flickr

Rojak

Rojak is a traditional mixed fruit and vegetable salad with added thick, sweet and spicy peanut sauce. There are various types of rojak dishes for you to try in Malaysia: Mamak Rojak (a mix of fried dough fritters, bean curds, boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers, and cuttlefish), Fruit Rojak (mixed fruits with thick shrimp paste, chilli, and lime juice), and Sotong Kangkung (a combination of cuttlefish and water spinach with a lot of ground peanuts). We recommended trying rojak at Rojak Bellamy and Rojak SS15 Subang Jaya (PJ New Town).

Rojak Bellamy, Jalan Bellamy, Bukit Petaling, 50460 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +60 19-215 3606

Rojak SS15 Subang Jaya (PJ New Town), 47, Jalan 52/18, Pj New Town, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, +60 17-780 9523

Penang Rojak © Alpha/Flickr | © Alpha / Flickr

Ais Kacang

This Malaysian dessert is widely known as ABC (Air Batu Campur), consisting of shaved ice served with assorted toppings (such as red beans, sweet corn, peanuts, and grass jelly), condensed milk, and drizzled with rose syrup. Sometimes it is served with a scoop of ice cream. You can find this delightful dessert in most of the hawker centres, food courts, and coffee shops in Malaysia. Beat the heat by enjoying the icy Ais Kacang at Ah Keong’s ABC & Ice Cendol Stall and Fatty Loong ABC Ice Kacang.

Ah Keong’s ABC & Ice Cendol Stall: 94A, Jalan Padang Belia, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Fatty Loong ABC Ice Kacang: Kepong Baru, 52100 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Ais Kacang (ABC) © dilettantiquity/Flickr