Combining Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and Malay culinary influences, foodies in Malaysia can easily makan (Malay for “eat”) their way through the country. With the breadth and depth of options, however, it can be overwhelming deciding what to try first.
Don’t miss these incredible dishes…or the opportunity to experience them with a local!
A consistently popular pick, nasi lemak consists of white rice soaked in coconut cream then steamed and served in a banana leaf with a hard-boiled egg, sliced cucumber, dried anchovies, roasted peanuts and plenty of sambal. Some variations come with pickled vegetables, beef rendang or even more accompaniments.
Malaysia’s version of noodle soup, laksa comes in a variety of forms but two of the most popular are assam laksa, spicy-sour fish broth flavoured with tamarind, and curry laksa with added spice and creamy coconut milk.
Literally meaning “meat bone tea,” bak kut teh is a hearty, savoury blend of slowly simmered pork ribs swimming in a mélange of herbs and spices, such as star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds and garlic.
Coming from southern India, banana leaf rice consists of white rice and a selection of curries, vegetables, pickles and crispy pappadom served on a banana leaf and eaten by hand.
Perhaps Malaysia’s most well-known dish, beef redang boasts succulent cuts of beef slowly cooked in in coconut milk and tonnes of spice for incredibly complex flavour in every bite.
The appropriately named rojak, meaning “mixture” in Malay, is a type of local salad often featuring different fruits, dough fritters and other ingredients tied together with a dark, sticky dressing of fermented prawn paste, sugar, lime and chilli paste. Best enjoyed fresh, the salad offers the perfect blend of sweet, sour and spicy!
Another dish with strong Chinese roots, char kuey teow is made with flat rice noodles stir-fried with soy sauce, chillies, cockles, bean sprouts and Chinese chives over high heat.
Of course, you can’t forget dessert! Similar to a large, folded-over pancake, apom balik is a popular street-side sweet with a slightly crisp shell and soft, hot inside stuffed with sweet fillings, like sugar, crushed peanuts and corn.
Common throughout Southeast Asia, especially when it’s hot out, cendol consists of shaved ice topped with green-hued rice flour jelly, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup.