So you thought Malaysian cuisine was basically the same as you find in Indonesia, eh? And you thought Nasi Lemak was practically all people eat here, right? Well, think again!
Malaysian food has serious influences from Indian and Chinese cuisines, as well as regional inspirations from Indonesia. As such, residents and foodies from the south east Asian nations of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore will playfully argue over who the dish really belongs to! Most of my entries in this list are foods from peninsular Malaysia but the states of Sabah and Sarawak cannot be forgotten. If it’s street food you’re after, then check out my Snack Attack: Malaysia’s Best Street Food article. But here, I have listed 3 light bites, 6 main meals, and 2 desserts. This should give you a taster of what proper Malay cuisine is like!
Chee Cheong Fun is a steamed rice roll, that came over to Malaysia from China long ago. Usually eaten as part of a wider dim sum range, it can also be eaten on its own as a snack.
Malaysians enjoy their seafood so much that a mid-afternoon snack of Dried Cuttlefish is not a rare occurrence! Spreading sambal all over it is also a common practice!
Usually circular in shape, Roti Canai is the famous Indian flatbread that is prevalent all over Asia. It is one of the most popular snacks in peninsular Malaysia.
No trip to Malaysia is complete without trying out the so-called national dish of Nasi Lemak. The fragrant rice is cooked in coconut milk and is served with fish, vegetables, and often a hard-boiled or fried egg on top! To add to the charm, nasi lemak can often be served on banana leaves.
Sambal Udang as a dish should need no introduction as long as you’re aware that sambal is a spicy condiment and udang is the Malaysian word for prawn. The end result is one of the tastiest concoctions in Malay cuisine and certainly one of my favourites!
Laksa has its origins in Peranakan cuisine and is a famous spicy noodle soup that will leave you gasping for breath! The laksa can be eaten with a variety of meats. There are many different kinds of laksa, including the traditional curry laksa and the Sarawak laksa, although the Asam Laksa from Penang is undoubtedly the most famous.
One of the more popular soups in Malaysia is Sup Kambing. It is usually made from mutton or goat and is eaten before a larger meal with healthy portions of bread or roti canai.
Koay Chiap is a duck noodle soup that is very popular on peninsula Malaysia. The added ‘bonus’ here is that in the soup (in addition to the slow-boiled duck meat) you will also find duck intestines and perhaps even an eyeball or two!
Literally meaning “burned fish”, Ikan Bakar is charcoaled over an open fire and then marinated with kecap manis. A healthy serving of sambal to add some extra flavour to the dish will also go down a treat!
Including the ingredients of sago, taro and sweet potato, Bubur Cha Cha is a rich and tasteful dessert that is famous all over Malaysia. This has been eaten traditionally for celebrations such as anniversaries and birthdays, but is now enjoyed throughout the year.
One of the better-known shaved ice desserts across Asia, Ais Kacang is a true Malaysian classic, and fares well against regional variations such as Halo-Halo from the Philippines. Ice cream forms the base, and a multitude of toppings from fresh fruit to hot sauce can be added to make a perfect end to any meal!
I will write more about Malaysian food in due course, but until then, let me know which dishes you find most irresistible!