What do you get when you blend the culinary charm of Thailand, Singapore, India and Indonesia into one? Some of the tastiest food you’ll ever find in Asia: Malaysian cuisine. These are our top 20 picks for dishes not to miss in the country!


Malaysia boasts one of the most diverse food scenes in Asia with a healthy dollop of inspiration drawn from its surrounding neighbors: Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia, as well as a sprinkling of Western flavour.

Malaysian cuisine ranges from creamy curries to spicy satay and marinated meat to sumptuous salads, there really is something for everyone. You can be sure to come away from Malaysia with a full stomach (and possibly a few extra pounds to your waistline). Ready to eat? These are the 20 dishes worth a plane ticket this year!

Nasi Lemak

Coconut Cream Rice

Lasi Nemak Malaysia
Credit: Wikipedia

If you’re looking for a true taste of Malaysian culture, then Nasi Lemak is an absolute must. Many locals will agree that this is the unofficial ‘national dish’ of the country and can be found everywhere from street-stalls to 5-star hotels. Soft white rice is steamed in a traditional banana leaf parcel with thick coconut cream and a sambal (spicy sauce).

The dish comes with sides of cucumber slices, dried anchovies, roasted peanuts and a hard-boiled egg. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous then you can even order extra toppings of fried chicken, cockles, sambal cuttlefish, kangkong (stir fried water convolvulus), achar (pickled vegetables) or beef rendang (beef stewed in coconut milk and spices).

Suggested Restaurant: Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa
Address: 7, Jalan Raja Muda Musa, Kampung Baru, 50300 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Nasi Kandar

Rice and Curry

Nasi Kandar Malaysia
Credit: Flickr

This is another delightful meal for those who like a variety of flavours. Nasi Kandar is a steamed rice dish originating from Penang and served with a variety of curry sauces and side dishes. The rice can be plain or mildly flavored and is accompanied by fried chicken, gizzards, curried mutton, cubed beef, fish roe, fried prawns or fried squid.

Fear not, vegetarians, there is plenty of choice for you too! The vegetable version of Nasi Kandar comes with brinjal (aubergine), bendi (lady fingers) or bitter gourd. The rice is then doused in one of the rich curry sauces on offer, namely fish, chicken or dhal. We recommend asking for a mixture of all the curry sauces, or Nasi Banjir (flooded rice), for a multifaceted taste to the rice.

Suggested Restaurant: Nasi Kandar Pelita
Address: 149, Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Suggested Restaurant: Nasi Kandar Kg Melayu
Address: Lot 5 3288 Foodcourt, Lintasan Kampung Melayu 2, 11500 Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Asam Laksa

Noodle Soup

Asam Laksa Noodle Soup Malaysia
Credit: Wikimedia

There are endless variations of Laksa, Malaysia’s beloved noodle soup, but there are two main categories: Asam Laksa and Curry Laksa. The former, pictured here, has a tart tamarind-based broth and is generally cooked with a flaky white fish; noodles on the bottom, cucumber, pineapple and the bitter torch ginger flower on top.

Sarawak Laksa, a crimson-coloured version of the soup topped with omlette strips, chicken and prawns, was recently featured in Anthony Bourdain’s Top 10 Wish List for his food market in New York City. This recognition highlights both the world-wide appeal of the dish as well as its luxurious flavours.

Laksa is a little different everywhere you get it, especially between the North and the South, but that’s half the fun of ordering the dish!

Suggested Restaurant: Ayer Itam Penang Assam Laksa
Address: C-140, Kampung Masjid Raja Chendering, Kuala Terengganu 21080, Malaysia

Suggested Restaurant: Ah Cheng Laksa
Address: Summit Hotel Subang USJ, 47600 Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

Roti Canai and Teh Tarik

Flatbread and Tea

Roti Canai and Teh Tarik Flat Bread and Tea Malaysia
Credit: Flickr

‘Flatbread and tea’ may not sound particularly exciting but it really really is –trust us. Roti Canai is a fresh Malaysian flatbread that is served with anything from a simple curry dipping sauce to a variety of meat curries, and Murtabak (layered Roti stuffed with meats) to Kotthu (chopped Roti mixed with meat and egg).

Teh Tarik, or ‘pulled tea’, is comprised of black tea, sugar, and condensed milk mixed to frothy perfection. Although it may sound simple enough, it takes years to perfect the pouring of this steamy beverage and watching it being made is an art in itself!

Suggested Restaurant: Any Malay, Muslim or Indian restaurant.

Nasi Dagang

Fish Curry

Nasi Dagang Fish Curry Malaysia
Credit: Flickr

Literally translated as ‘trader’s rice’, Nasi Dagang’s name doesn’t do justice to its rich flavours. This dish consists of rice steamed in coconut milk and fish curry but, as with all Malaysian cuisine, there is no shortage of side dishes.

Nasi Dagang is most often served with a generous helping of fried shaved coconut, solok lada (stuffed chili pepper), hard-boiled eggs and vegetable pickles. This is a well-known breakfast food on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia and is famously made to perfection in Kampung Ladang, an area within the Kuala Terengganu district.

Suggested Restaurant: Mak Ngoh Nasi Dagang
Address: C-140, Kampung Masjid Raja Chendering, Kuala Terengganu 21080, Malaysia

Suggested Restaurant: Restaurant Tuu Dok Ko 1488
Address: Flat Taman Samudra, Jalan Samudera Timur 7, Taman Samudra, Batu Caves, Selangor, Malaysia

Nasi Kerabu

Rice and Salad

Nasi Kerabu Malaysia
Credit: Wikimedia

Nasi Kerabu is a classic dish in Kelantan and the perfect option for health-nuts. Despite the misleadingly neon blue rice, there is an array of fresh ingredients on offer including ulam (herbs & vegetables), kerisik sambal ikan (coconut flaked fish) and sambal tumis kelapa (coconut sauce).

You’ll also be pleased to know that the blue colour of rice is completely natural and due to being cooked in butterfly-pea flowers.

Suggested Restaurant: Restoran Patatimo
Address: D’Wangsa, 11, Jalan Wangsa Delima 10, Wangsa Maju, 53300 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Suggested Restaurant: Restoran Nasi Kerabu Golok
Address: Jalan Sultan Yahya Petra, 15200 Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia

Ayam Percik

Grilled Chicken

Ayam Percik Malaysia
Credit: Flickr

This delicious dish is another Kelantanese specialty and is usually served with the earlier mentioned Nasi Kerabu. The chicken comes with an aromatic sauce made from a mixture of rich coconut milk and sour tamarind paste. We recommend trying Ayam Percik at a Pasar Malam (night market) where it’s always the star of the show.

Suggested Restaurant: R Yati Ayam Percik
Address: Jln Seri Permaisuri 2, Kuala Lumpur 56000, Malaysia

Lemang

Glutinous Coconut Rice

Lemang Glutinous Coconut Rice Malaysia
Credit: Wikipedia

Lemang is a combination of glutinous rice and coconut milk that is wrapped in banana leaves, squashed inside a bamboo joint and roasted over a wood fire. Once cooked – often over a laborious 4 hours – the bamboo is split open, thus exposing a creamy cylinder of rice.

This is then sliced into discs and served with Beef Rendang. It can take years to master the art of cooking Lemang so this probably isn’t something you can try at home -don’t miss your opportunity to try it while in Malaysia!

Suggested Restaurant: Lemang To’Ki
Address: Bt 2 Jalan Tras, Bentong, Malaysia

Satay

Barbecue Skewers

Barbecue Skewers Satay Malaysia
Credit: Flickr

This is a simple dish, just skewered meat cooked over a barbecue, but it definitely hits the spot. The meat is lathered in turmeric, which gives it the yellow colour, then served with slivers of onion, cucumber and Ketupat (rice cakes).

The real key to Malaysian Satay’s appeal, though, is the spicy peanut dip or peanut gravy. You may also be surprised to hear that despite tasting delightfully sinful, Satay is a balanced meal of carbohydrates, protein, fats and vegetables. Treat yourself to this one as much as you’d like!

Suggested Restaurant: Restoran Sate Kajang Haji Samuri
Address: Jalan Hishammuddin, Bandar Kajang, 43000 Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia

Satay Celup

Steamboat Satay

Steamboat Satay Satay Celup Malaysia
Credit: Flickr

Satay Celup is an assortment of raw and semi-cooked seafood, meat and vegetables that are loaded on skewers and dunked into a boiling pot of satay gravy. Many tourists and locals consider Satay Celup a favourite because of the impressive selection of bites. There are more than 80 types of food which are all eaten with a thick, moreish sauce. We told you there was something for everyone!

Suggested Restaurant: Capitol Satay
Address: 41 Lorong Bukit Cina, Melaka 75100, Malaysia

Suggested Restaurant: Ban Lee Siang Satay Celup
Address: 45E, Jalan Ong Kim Wee, Melaka, Bandar Hilir, 75300

Gulai Ayam Kampung

Curried Meat

Gulai Ayam Kampung Curried Meat Malaysia
Credit: Wikipedia

Gulai is a type of food containing spicy and succulent curry-like sauce. The main ingredients might be poultry, beef, mutton, offal, fish or seafood. For those looking for a vegetable option, there is also the choice of cassava leaves and unripe jackfruit.

Gulai sauce consists of rich spices such as turmeric, coriander, black pepper, galangal, ginger, chili pepper, shallot, garlic, fennel, lemongrass, cinnamon and caraway, ground into paste and cooked in coconut milk with the main ingredients. We recommend this dish if you’re looking for something with lots of flavour and a bit of a kick!

Suggested Restaurant: Restoran Hassan Ayam Kampung
Address: KL Velodrom (Cheras), 56000 Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Sang Har Noodles

Seafood Noodles

Sang Har Noodles Seafood Noodle Malaysia
Credit: Wikipedia

Fresh river prawns are cooked Cantonese style in a thick eggy broth and finished off with flat or egg noodles. The orange roe in the head of the prawn seeps into the sauce and noodles making this an incredibly tasty dish for seafood lovers.

Suggested Restaurant: Pan Heong Restaurant
Address: No. 2, Jalan Medan Batu Caves 2, Medan Batu Caves, Batu Caves, 68100

Suggested Restaurant: Green View Restaurant
Address: No, 6 & 8, Jalan 19/3, Petaling Jaya (North), 46300

Ayam Pongteh

Chicken and Potato Stew

Ayam Pongteh Malaysia
Credit: Wikipedia

If you’re looking for something to make you feel at home in Malaysia, look no further. Ayam Pongteh is a warm and comforting dish originating from Malacca (Melaka) Nyonya made with chicken, potato, taucheo (fermented soy bean sauce) and gula Melaka (palm sugar). If you’re at a loss for what to do on a rainy day, this is your ticket to happiness.

Suggested Restaurant: Amy Heritage Nyonya Cuisine
Address: 75 Jalan Melaka Raya 24 | Taman Melaka Raya, Melaka, Malaysia

Rojak

Fruit and Vegetable Salad

Rojak Malaysia
Credit: Flickr

Rojak combines the sweet and sour flavours of Malaysia’s regional fruits with the spice of a rich chili pepper and tamarind dressing. The type of fruits used vary throughout the seasons and regions of Malaysia, but the more common bites include water apple, pineapple and sour unripe mangoes.

The word ‘Rojak’ simply means ‘mixture’ in Malay and another common style of the dish is Pasembur, an Indian Halal mixed salad of vegetables and deep fried nibbles, topped with a sweet chili sauce.

Suggested Restaurant: Rojak Bellamy
Address: Pernama PN 090, Jalan Bellamy, 50450, City Center, Kuala Lumpur

Apam Balik

Peanut Pancakes

Apam Balik Peanut Pancake Malaysia
Credit: Wikipedia

This is the perfect street-food for the sweet-tooth traveller. Apam Balik is a thin pancake filled with crunchy peanuts and sugar. The edge of the pancake is crispy and the middle is usually soft and chewy. This another dish not to be missed at the Malaysian night-markets so don’t forget to save room for dessert!

Suggested Restaurant: Any night market hawker stalls!

Otak Otak

Grilled Fish Cake

Otak Otak Grilled Fish Cake Malaysia
Credit: Wikipedia

Otak-otak is very common street food in Malaysia. It is a grilled fish cake made of ground fish meat mixed with tapioca starch and spices. It is traditionally served fresh, wrapped inside a banana leaf. It can be eaten solely as a snack or with steamed rice as part of a meal. As with many Malaysian cuisines, you can grab this to go at any night market and plenty of street-stalls.

Suggested Restaurant: Any night market hawker stalls!

Kek Lapis Sarawak

Layered Cake

Kek Lapis Sarawak Layered Cake Malaysia
Credit: Wikipedia

Kek Lapis Sarawak is a colourful layered cake that is famous in the Sarawak state of Borneo. It was initially served in cultural and religious events such as the Hari Raya (fast-breaking festival), Christmas and Deepavali (festival of lights). 

However, its popularity meant that it quickly became a regular Malaysian dessert served all-year-round. This goodie is known under a few different names but it is easy to locate by its vivid neon colours.

Suggested Restaurant: Dyg Salhah’s Kek Lapis Sarawak
Address: No 40, Kampung Gersik, Petra Jaya, 93050 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Lor Bak

Stuffed Beencurd Roll

Stuffed Beencurd Roll Lor Bak Malaysia
Credit: Flickr

Lor Bak is a unique Hokkien and Teochew dish. It is essentially a blend of various meats and vegetables, seasoned with five-spice powder, rolled inside a bean curd skin and then deep-fried. It is often served with lap cheong (sausage), cucumber, century egg (preserved egg), ginger, deep-fried egg, deep-fried beancurd or fishball.

As you can see, Lor Bak involves a whole lot of deep-frying so it’s best saved for a greasy treat at the end of a late night.

Suggested Restaurant: Kheng Pin Cafe
Address: 20, 16, Jalan Penang, George Town, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Mee Goreng Mamak

Stir Fried Noodles

Mee Goreng Mamak Malaysia
Credit: Flickr

This is a flavourful and spicy fried noodle dish that can be eaten day after day during your stay in Malaysia. Thick yellow noodles are fried with garlic, onion and chili, then mixed with cabbage, tomato and egg. The choice of toppings include prawn, chicken, pork, beef or, our personal favourite, sliced bakso (meatballs). Similar to this meal is available at most Indian restaurants.

Suggested Restaurant: Nasi Kandar Pelita
Address: 149, Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Cendol

Jelly Dessert

Cendol Jelly Malaysia
Credit: Flickr

Cendol is a cold dessert that is popular in Malaysia as well as many other countries in Southeast Asia. It is usually comprised of green jelly-like noodles, coconut cream, palm syrup and crushed ice. The glutinous noodles are formed from mung bean, rice flour, tapioca and pandan plant which gives the jelly a distinctive vanilla flavour and green colour. This sweet, cool dessert is found in both restaurants and vendor booths, and truly sensational in the hot Malaysian summer.

Suggested Restaurant: Jonker 88
Address: No. 88, Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200, Melaka 75200

Ready to try the many mouth-watering meals of Malaysia? Contact our team of travel experts to arrange a trip to treat your taste-buds.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Very appetising, very enticing ! A good variety of dishes (well photographed) & restaurant recommendations.

    You should publish a cookbook !

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