One of the most exciting things about visiting Malaysia is the availability of endless food options. It is where many different cuisines converge. Chinese, Indian, Malay, Indonesian, Thai, Peranakan – there’s always something delightful for you to sample.
Malaysian cooking is an interesting mix of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavours. Think of stir-fries, grilled dishes, stews, noodle soups, curries that are all flavourful and aromatic. For the uninitiated, however, this can be overwhelming, especially when you find yourself right smack in the middle of a busy night market or a bustling hawker street.
So to help make your trip to Malaysia trip become more memorable, the Travezl team compiled a list of foods that you should try. The dishes included in our list are big favorites among locals and tourists alike. And you know what’s even better? None of them will leave a gaping whole in your wallet.
1. Char Kway Teow. Char Kway Teow is a noodle dish popularized by the food carts of Penang. The dish is made from flat noodles and fresh ingredients such as shrimp, sausages, cockles, eggs, vegetables, herbs, and spices that are stir-fried over high heat in fish or soy sauce. The dish’s taste and texture depends on the cooking style so do not be surprised if you find char kuey teow to be served a tad salty and “dry” in one stall, and then kind of sweet and “wet” in another. Furthermore, hawkers tend to add other ingredients such as salted eggs, and even duck eggs. Char Kway Teow is typically served on a banana leaf.
2. Assam Laksa. Assam Laksa is another popular Peranakan noodle dish known for it’s very strong flavours, owing to its fish and tamarind broth. Other ingredients that make this dish delicious are sliced fish, vegetables, chillies, ginger, lemongrass, and mint. While you can have a decent bowl of assam laksa in Kuala Lumpur and anywhere in Malaysia, foodies swear by the Penang’s version of this delicacy. Laksa is best served with shrimp paste.
3. Cendol. Cendol is a Malaysian dessert of Indonesian origins. It is made from shaved ice topped with starchy pandan jelly and drenched in rich coconut milk. Palm sugar lends just the right amount of sweetness to this traditional dessert. While you can find different variations of this refreshing treat virtually anywhere in Malaysia, a lot of people say that the best cendol can be found in the cendol shops along Jonker Street in Melaka City, the capital of the Malaysian state of Malacca.
4. Beef Rendang. Rendang is a spicy beef and potato dish of Indonesian roots that’s very popular in Malaysia. To cook beef rendang, the meat is slowly cooked in coconut milk and flavoured with an assortment of spices. The food preparation alone takes hours but the finished product is really worth it. It tastes so good that you wouldn’t want to trade it for anything. Beef rendang is often eaten with Nasi Lemak, another must-try Malaysian dish.
4. Nasi Lemak. Nasi Lemak, Malaysia’s national dish, is prepared by soaking white rice in coconut cream and pandan leaves before it is steamed to fluffy perfection. If you have nasi lemak at hawker stalls, it usually comes wrapped in banana leaf and served with fried egg, anchovies, a few slices of cucumber, chopped toasted peanuts, and our course, a serving of spicy sambal. This rice dish makes a good hearty breakfast fare and goes well with fried fish, spicy chicken, and beef rendang.
6. Ondeh Ondeh. Malaysians are big on bite-seized desserts or kuih and ondeh ndeh is just one of those with a huge cult following. These sticky and chewy coconut-covered sweet potato and rice balls are so good in so many different levels.
7. Hokien Mee. A popular Malaysian dish with Chinese origins, Hokien Mee is basically noodles (egg or rice) stir-fried in thick dark soya sauce and usually topped with pork meat, vegetables, and seafood. There are a few variations of this delectable dish, depending on the specific locality in Malaysia. While you can have Hokien mee for breakfast or lunch, you should eat it like locals do, and trying having it for dinner.
8. Roti Canai. Malaysian cuisine is influenced by Indian cuisine and roti canai is an example of the fusion of the two. Served with curries, meat, and lentils, this flaky flatbread is a breakfast favorite among locals.
9. Bakuteh. Bakuteh is one dish flavourful dish you must try at least once during your trip to Malaysia. At its simplest, it is a pork rib soup made from simmering the pork ribs in a broth with lots of herbs and spices thrown in. Usually eaten with rice and noodles, bakuteh makes one satisfying hot meal, perfect for a rainy day.
10. Sambal Lala. If you love seafood and spicy dishes, you’ll definitely love sambal lala. It is a dish made from stir-frying clams in spicy sambal, a hot sauce or dish made from a mixture of chili and other spices. This yummy dish is usually available at hawker centres so do give it a try!
Are you planning a long weekend in Malaysia? Make the most of your trip by joining these tours and activities in Kuala Lumpur and other surrounding territories.
By: Brendelyn Balaga